Mercury (Hg) biomagnifies in aquatic food chains and can reach high concentrations in fish–eating birds. Spatial patterns of Hg have been found in freshwater ecosystems across Canada for many taxa, including fish and birds. However, it often is challenging to sample a representative population size of adult birds to monitor concentrations of contaminants over a large spatial scale. Moreover, adult birds can migrate and can show a contaminant profile that may not be representative of local resources. The goals of this study were (1) to determine if there was a spatial pattern of Hg concentrations in piscivorous birds, (2) to develop a model to estimate Hg concentrations in breeding adults using chicks as proxy, and (3) to develop predictive equations among non-lethal tissues that are representative of local resources in adults (blood and growing feathers). Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) chick growing feathers were sampled at 19 sites across Canada. Adult tissues (freshly grown feathers and blood) were sampled at five of those locations to establish correlations between age classes and between adult tissues. We found an increase in Hg concentrations with latitude up to 50°N followed by a decrease. There was a decrease in Hg concentrations from west to east, which contradicts previous studies. We found a good correlation of Hg concentrations between adults and chicks and among adult tissues. Our study shows that chicks are representative of adults and can be a suitable proxy for monitoring local mercury concentrations across Canada.
Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology – Springer Journals
Published: May 10, 2018
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