Long-term monitoring of mercury in adult saltmarsh sparrows breeding in Maine, Massachusetts and New York, USA 2000–2017

Abstract

Here we report on the results of a long-term study of mercury exposure in a songbird species, the saltmarsh sparrow (Ammodramus caudacutus). We measured total mercury concentrations in blood (n = 840) and feathers (n = 560) of adult saltmarsh sparrows at six locations between 2000 and 2017: Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge (RCNWR) in Wells, Maine; Scarborough Marsh State Wildlife Management Area in Scarborough, Maine; Parker River National Wildlife Refuge on Plum Island, Massachusetts; Pine Neck Preserve in Southampton, Long Island, New York; and North Cinder and North Green Sedge Islands off the coast of Long Island, New York. During the 12–17 year sampling periods, we found that mercury exposure differed by site and year but there was no consistent temporal trend across sites. Blood mercury concentrations declined only at RCNWR in Maine. We also found seasonal variation in blood mercury concentrations and a positive relationship between mercury concentrations of blood and innermost primary feather, but not between blood and tail feather.

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Acknowledgements

We express our most sincere appreciation to the staff of Rachel Carson and Parker River NWRs for their enthusiastic help in the field. Many thanks to Kaytee Hojnacki at the PRNWR for all her help in the field. We would like to thank the staff, interns, and biologists from the town of Hempstead on Long Island and Rob Longiaru, without them, the NY sampling would have not been possible. We are indebted to the staff of the Long Island Chapter of the Nature Conservancy for their assistance at Pine Neck Preserve in New York, especially to Nicole and Caitlin Maher, Joe Jannsen, Derek Rogers, and many interns and volunteers. Thanks to Greg Shriver for collecting samples in 2000-01 and to the graduate students at UNH, Bri Benvenuti and Jennifer Walsh, for helping to collect blood samples in Wells and Parker River. Financial support was provided by the grants from the US Fish and Wildlife Service (Maine and Massachusetts sampling), New York State Energy Authority (Long Island) and Biodiversity Research Institute (BRI). Thanks to Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

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Correspondence to Oksana Lane.

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Lane, O., Adams, E.M., Pau, N. et al. Long-term monitoring of mercury in adult saltmarsh sparrows breeding in Maine, Massachusetts and New York, USA 2000–2017. Ecotoxicology 29, 1148–1160 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10646-020-02180-w

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Keywords

  • Tidal marshes
  • Mercury
  • Saltmarsh sparrows
  • Long-term monitoring