, Volume 279-280, Issue 1, pp 439-444

Susceptibility to freshwater acidification by two species of loon: Red-throated Loon (Gavia stellata) and Arctic Loon (Gavia arctica) in southwest Sweden

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Abstract

In southwest Sweden, the two species of loon, Gavia stellata and G. arctica, have shown different trends in population size and production of young during the last decades. Both species fish in oligotrophic freshwaters, susceptible to acidification. The number of breeding sites occupied by G. stellata has been reduced by almost 50% during the last 40–50 years. For G. arctica, there are no indications of significant declines in population size or reproductive success during the last 20 years. The different trends in numbers and production of young might reflect different susceptibility to the ecological changes in acidified lakes. G. stellata prefer fishing lakes with high abundance of Acerina cernua and salmonid and cyprinid fish, such as Coregonus albula and Rutilus rutilus. They also feed their prefledged chicks almost entirely on cyprinid and salmonid fish. G. arctica prefer fishing lakes with high transparency and, when feeding in groups, high abundance of Perca fluviatilis. Their young can be fed on aquatic insects as a supplement to the fish diet. Thus, G. stellata to a higher degree than G. arctica relies on fish which are susceptible to low pH, and G. arctica may also benefit from the increased abundance of aquatic insects in lakes with reduced predation from fish. Furthermore, high water transparency is important for the selection of lakes by G. arctica but not by G. stellata. In G. stellata, high contents of mercury in eggs can be related to the intake of fish in lakes affected by acidification.