, Volume 19, Issue 9, pp 4060-4072
Date: 05 Aug 2012

Large-scale spatial pollution patterns around the North Sea indicated by coastal bird eggs within an EcoQO programme

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Abstract

To categorize the marine environmental health status, the Oslo and Paris commissions have recently formulated Ecological Quality Objectives (EcoQOs) for many ecological features including the contamination of coastal bird eggs with mercury and organochlorines. In this study, we describe spatial and temporal patterns of egg contamination around the North Sea and compared them to the EcoQOs. Concentrations of mercury, polychlorinated biphenyl (ΣPCB) congeners, dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (ΣDDT) and derivatives, hexachlorobenzene (HCB) and hexachlorocyclohexane (ΣHCH) isomers were analysed in two tern species (Sterna hirundo and Sterna paradisaea) and Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus) eggs collected between 2008 and 2010 in a total of 21 sites in seven countries surrounding the North Sea. Hg, ΣPCB and HCB were highest in the southern sites, while ΣDDT and ΣHCH concentrations were greatest in eggs from the western North Sea and the Elbe estuary. There were rarely any consistent decreases over time for any compounds. In the terns, Hg, HCB and ΣHCH increased at most sites, ΣPCB and ΣDDT in Sweden and Norway. In the Oystercatcher, HCB and ΣHCH increased at more than the half of the sites, ΣPCB, ΣDDT and Hg at several German sites. In the terns, Hg, ΣPCB and ΣDDT exceeded the EcoQO in all, HCB in most years and sites. At most sites, ΣHCH fulfilled the EcoQO in some study years. In the Oystercatcher, Hg, ΣPCB and ΣDDT exceeded the EcoQO in all or most years and sites. HCB and ΣHCH fulfilled the EcoQO in some or all years at most sites. The EcoQO was exceeded most frequently in estuaries. We conclude that EcoQOs are suitable for drawing contamination patterns of the coastal North Sea in an easily understandable manner, offering the opportunity to harmonize the EcoQOs with coordinated environmental monitoring programmes.

Responsible editor: Philippe Garrigues