Fort J, Robertson GJ, Grémillet D, Traisnel G, Bustamante P., Environ Sci Technol. 2014 Oct 7;48(19):11560-7. doi: 10.1021/es504045g.
Arctic organisms are exposed to various levels of pollutants, among which mercury (Hg) has raised important environmental concerns. Previous studies examining Hg levels, trends, and effects on Arctic marine top predators have focused on the Arctic region. However, many of these top predators, such as seabirds, migrate to spend a large part of their life cycle far from the Arctic in areas where their exposure to contaminants is largely unknown. By combining biotelemetry and Hg and stable isotope analyses, we studied the seasonal Hg contamination of little auks (Alle alle, the most abundant Arctic seabird) in relation to their distribution and marine foraging habitat, as well as its potential impacts on bird reproduction. We show that little auks were ∼3.5 times more contaminated when outside the breeding season, and that Hg that accumulated during this nonbreeding non-Arctic period was related to egg size the following season, with females having more Hg laying smaller eggs. Our results highlight that ecotoxicological studies should be expanded to yield a comprehensive understanding of contamination risks and associated threats to top predators over their entire annual cycle. Furthermore, we show that an important nonbreeding area located in the northwest Atlantic was associated with greater Hg contamination and demonstrate the utility of bird-borne miniaturized technology for evaluating the contamination of marine systems on large spatial
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