Contamination status and accumulation characteristics of heavy metals and arsenic in five seabird species from the central Bering Sea

06 June 2017

Seabirds are marine top predators and accumulate high levels of metals and metalloids in their tissues. Contamination by metals in the highly productive offshore region has become a matter of public concern. It is home to 80% of the seabird population in the U.S.A., 95% of northern fur seals (Callorhinus ursinus), and major populations of Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus), walruses (Odobenus rosmarus) and whales. Here, the concentrations of eight heavy metals (Hg, Cd, Cr, Co, Ni, Cu, Zn and Pb) and a metalloid (As) in the liver and kidneys of the northern fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis), thick-billed murre (Uria lomvia), short-tailed shearwater (Puffinus tenuirostris), tufted puffin (Fratercula cirrhata) and horned puffin (Fratercula corniculata) collected in the Bering Sea were measured. As proxies of trophic level and habitat, nitrogen (δ15N) and carbon (δ13C) stable isotope ratios of breast muscles were also measured. Hepatic Hg concentration was high in northern fulmar, whereas Cd level was high in tufted puffin and northern fulmar. The Hg concentration and δ15N value were positively correlated across individual birds, suggesting that Hg uptake was linked to the trophic status of consumed prey. Furthermore, Hg concentration in our study was higher than those of the same species of seabirds collected in 1990