Spatial and sex differences in mercury contamination of skuas in the Southern Ocean

Mills, W. F. et al. (2022) Spatial and sex differences in mercury contamination of skuas in the Southern Ocean. Environmental Pollution, 297, 118841. (doi: 10.1016/j.envpol.2022.118841)

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Abstract

Antarctic marine ecosystems are often considered to be pristine environments, yet wildlife in the polar regions may still be exposed to high levels of environmental contaminants. Here, we measured total mercury (THg) concentrations in blood samples from adult brown skuas Stercorarius antarcticus lonnbergi (n = 82) from three breeding colonies south of the Antarctic Polar Front in the Southern Ocean (southwest Atlantic region): (i) Bahía Esperanza/Hope Bay, Antarctic Peninsula; (ii) Signy Island, South Orkney Islands; and, (iii) Bird Island, South Georgia. Blood THg concentrations increased from the Antarctic Peninsula towards the Antarctic Polar Front, such that Hg contamination was lowest at Bahía Esperanza/Hope Bay (mean ± SD, 0.95 ± 0.45 μg g−1 dw), intermediate at Signy Island (3.42 ± 2.29 μg g−1 dw) and highest at Bird Island (4.47 ± 1.10 μg g−1 dw). Blood THg concentrations also showed a weak positive correlation with δ15N values, likely reflecting the biomagnification process. Males had higher Hg burdens than females, which may reflect deposition of Hg into eggs by females or potentially differences in their trophic ecology. These data provide important insights into intraspecific variation in contamination and the geographic transfer of Hg to seabirds in the Southern Ocean.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:William Mills is supported by a NERC GW4+ Doctoral Training Partnership studentship from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC; grant no. NE/L002434/1). The Institut Universitaire de France (IUF) is acknowledged for its support to Paco Bustamante as a Senior Member. Stable isotope analyses were funded by the Natural Environment Isotope Facility (grant no. 2325.0920).
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Carneiro, Ana and McGill, Dr Rona
Creator Roles:
Carneiro, A. P.B.Resources, Investigation, Writing – review and editing
McGill, R. A.R.Investigation, Writing – review and editing
Authors: Mills, W. F., Ibañez, A. E., Bustamante, P., Carneiro, A. P.B., Bearhop, S., Cherel, Y., Mariano-Jelicich, R., McGill, R. A.R., Montalti, D., Votier, S. C., and Phillips, R. A.
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre
Journal Name:Environmental Pollution
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:0269-7491
ISSN (Online):1873-6424
Published Online:10 January 2022
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2022 Elsevier
First Published:First published in Environmental Pollution 297:118841
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher

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