Mercury levels in seabirds and their fish prey at the Ebro Delta (NW Mediterranean): the role of trawler discards as a source of contamination.

Arcos, J.M., Ruiz, X., Bearhop, S. and Furness, R.W. (2002) Mercury levels in seabirds and their fish prey at the Ebro Delta (NW Mediterranean): the role of trawler discards as a source of contamination. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 232, pp. 281-290. (doi:10.3354/meps232281)

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Publisher's URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.3354/meps232281

Abstract

We determined mercury levels in internal tissues and feathers from corpses of Audouin's Larus audouinii and yellow-legged gulls L. cachinnans michaellis, common terns Sterna hirundo and European shags Phalacrocorax aristotelis desmarestii, as well as from fish representative of trawler discards, collected at the Ebro Delta (NW Mediterranean) between March and July (seabird's breeding season) in 1997 to 1999. The levels of mercury were significantly lower in epipelagic (Clupeiforms) than in demersal fish. When representation of each species in the discards is taken into account, the mean mercury concentration from this resource is more than double that of epipelagic fish (the main natural prey for most seabirds in the area). The shag was the only species with direct access to benthic fish, as it can dive to the seabed, and shags presented high levels of mercury even though they do not feed on discards, The other seabirds showed mercury levels in accordance with their seasonal use of discards. Audouin's gull, which exploits discards extensively during the breeding season, had the highest levels in those tissues reflecting mercury intake during the breeding season (liver and 1st primary feathers). In contrast, the common tern makes little use of discards and presented the lowest levels of mercury. For those samples reflecting the intake of mercury during the winter (mantle feathers), when only the yellow-legged gull exploits discards extensively, this species presented the highest values. Audouin's gull and the common tern showed similarly low concentrations of mercury for this period. We conclude that consumption of discarded demersal fish strongly influenced mercury contamination of surface-feeding seabirds.

Item Type:Articles
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Furness, Professor Robert
Authors: Arcos, J.M., Ruiz, X., Bearhop, S., and Furness, R.W.
Subjects:Q Science > QL Zoology
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Biodiversity Animal Health and Comparative Medicine
Journal Name:Marine Ecology Progress Series
ISSN:0171-8630

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