Influence of trophic position and foraging range on mercury levels within a seabird community

Anderson, O. R. J.; Phillips, R. A.; McDonald, R.A.; Shore, R. F.; McGill, R.A. R.; Bearhop, S.. 2009 Influence of trophic position and foraging range on mercury levels within a seabird community. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 375. 277-288.

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Seabirds are often advocated as biomonitors for marine contaminants such as mercury (Hg). However, contaminant levels can vary widely depending on among-individual and among-species variation in foraging preferences and physiology, and on tissue types used for analyses. Using stable isotope analysis (SIA), we investigated the effects of trophic position, season, and tissue type on Hg burdens in a group of 10 closely related seabirds (Procellariiformes) from a single colony in the South Atlantic. Analysis of blood (reflecting breeding season diet) showed that among-species Hg concentrations varied as a function of trophic position (δ15N) and were also influenced to a lesser degree by foraging range (δ13C). This pattern did not hold for feathers, which reflect the non-breeding period. Mercury levels in feathers formed during the non-breeding season appear to be more strongly governed by species effects (such as moult schedule), demonstrating the need to carefully consider tissue type when formulating predictions regarding Hg burdens and dynamics. Assessment at a community rather than the species level, and across a number of tissue types, provided a more complete picture of the complex interactions between Hg and foraging ecology in seabirds.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Programmes: CEH Programmes pre-2009 publications > Biogeochemistry
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Shore
ISSN: 0171-8630
Additional Keywords: Mercury, Procellariiformes, δ15N, δ13C, Trophic position, Diet, Seabird
NORA Subject Terms: Marine Sciences
Ecology and Environment
Related URLs:
Date made live: 06 Apr 2009 09:02 +0 (UTC)

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