EcoHealth

, Volume 5, Issue 4, pp 409–425 | Cite as

Marine Foraging Birds As Bioindicators of Mercury in the Gulf of Maine

  • M. Wing Goodale
  • David C. Evers
  • Steven E. Mierzykowski
  • Alexander L. Bond
  • Neil M. Burgess
  • Catherine I. Otorowski
  • Linda J. Welch
  • C. Scott Hall
  • Julie C. Ellis
  • R. Bradford Allen
  • Anthony W. Diamond
  • Stephen W. Kress
  • Robert J. Taylor
Original Contribution

Abstract

From existing databases, we compiled and evaluated 604 total mercury (Hg) levels in the eggs and blood of 17 species of marine foraging birds from 35 Gulf of Maine islands to provide baseline data and to determine the best tissue, age class, and species for future biomonitoring. While mean Hg levels in most species did not exceed adverse effects thresholds, levels in some individual eggs did; for all species arithmetic mean egg Hg levels ranged from 0.04 to 0.62 (μg/g, wet weight). Piscivorous birds had higher Hg levels than invertivores. Leach’s storm-petrel (Oceanodroma leucorhoa), razorbill (Alca torda), and black guillemot (Cepphus grylle) adult blood and egg Hg levels were higher than other species. Our results indicate that adult blood is preferable to chick blood for detecting long-term temporal trends because adult levels are higher and not confounded by metabolic effects. However, since we found that eggs and adult blood are comparable indicators of methylmercury bioavailability, we determined that eggs are the preferred tissue for long-term Hg monitoring because the relative ease in collecting eggs ensures consistent and robust datasets. We suggest specific sampling methods, and based on our results demonstrate that common eider (Somateria mollissima), Leach’s storm-petrel, double-crested cormorant, and black guillemot are the most effective bioindicators of Hg of the Gulf of Maine.

Keywords

mercury seabirds waterbirds Gulf of Maine bioindicators 

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Copyright information

© International Association for Ecology and Health 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. Wing Goodale
    • 1
  • David C. Evers
    • 1
  • Steven E. Mierzykowski
    • 2
  • Alexander L. Bond
    • 3
    • 4
  • Neil M. Burgess
    • 5
  • Catherine I. Otorowski
    • 3
  • Linda J. Welch
    • 6
  • C. Scott Hall
    • 7
  • Julie C. Ellis
    • 8
  • R. Bradford Allen
    • 9
  • Anthony W. Diamond
    • 3
  • Stephen W. Kress
    • 7
  • Robert J. Taylor
    • 10
  1. 1.BioDiversity Research InstituteGorhamUSA
  2. 2.Maine Field Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife ServiceOld TownUSA
  3. 3.Atlantic Cooperative Wildlife Ecology Research NetworkUniversity of New BrunswickFredericton, New BrunswickCanada
  4. 4.Department of BiologyMemorial University of NewfoundlandSt. John’sCanada
  5. 5.Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment CanadaMount PearlCanada
  6. 6.Maine Coastal Islands NWR U.S. Fish and Wildlife ServiceMilbridgeUSA
  7. 7.National Audubon SocietyIthacaUSA
  8. 8.Department of Environmental and Population Health, Cummings School of Veterinary MedicineTufts UniversityNorth GraftonUSA
  9. 9.Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and WildlifeBangorUSA
  10. 10.Trace Element Research LabTexas A&M UniversityCollege StationUSA

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