Heavy metal and selenium concentrations in eggs of herring gulls (Larus argentatus): Temporal differences from 1989 to 1994

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Abstract

Concentrations of five metals and selenium in the eggs of herring gulls (Larus argentatus) were examined at a breeding colony on western Long Island, New York from 1989 to 1994. There were significant yearly differences in lead, cadmium, mercury, selenium, chromium, and manganese. Chromium and cadmium were significantly higher in 1993 compared to the other years. Lead levels were highest in 1989, and were uniformly lower in the succeeding four years. Manganese showed no clear pattern. Selenium concentrations decreased from 1991 through 1994, whereas mercury increased from 1992 through 1994. Generally, concentrations of cadmium were similar to those reported for avian eggs from elsewhere; mercury and lead were within the range, but were at the high end; and chromium concentrations were higher than elsewhere. For all years combined, there was a positive correlation between lead and cadmium concentrations and between chromium and manganese, and a negative correlation between lead and mercury concentrations. In conclusion, egg contents can be used to monitor heavy metal concentrations, but consecutive years must be examined because concentrations can vary significantly among years. Ideally, data are needed for more than three years before trends, or lack thereof, can be determined.