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Contaminant levels in Herring (Larus argentatus) and Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus) eggs from colonies in the New York harbor complex between 2012 and 2013

Burger, Joanna, Elbin, Susan
Ecotoxicology 2015 v.24 no.2 pp. 445-452
Larus argentatus, Larus marinus, arsenic, birds, cadmium, coasts, data collection, eggs, estuaries, food chain, harbors (waterways), herring, islands, lead, mercury, nesting, sediments, selenium, storms, wind speed, New Jersey, New York
Birds living in coastal areas are exposed to severe storms and tidal flooding during the nesting season, but also to contaminants that move up the food chain from the water column and sediment to their prey items. We examine metals in Herring Gull (Larus argentatus) and Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus) eggs collected from the New York/New Jersey harbor estuary in 2012 and in 2013 to determine if there were significant yearly differences in metal levels. We test the null hypothesis that there were no significant yearly differences in metal levels. We investigate whether there were consistent differences in metals from 2012 to 2013 that might suggest a storm-related effect because Superstorm Sandy landed in New Jersey in October 2012 with high winds and extensive flooding, and view this research as exploratory. Except for arsenic, there were significant inter-year variations in the mean levels for all colonies combined for Herring Gull, and for lead, mercury and selenium for Great Black-backed Gulls. All metal levels in 2013 were less than in 2012, except for lead. These differences were present for individual colonies as well. Metal levels varied significantly among islands for Herring Gulls in both years (except for cadmium in 2013). No one colony had the highest levels of all metals for Herring Gulls. A long term data set on mercury levels in Herring Gulls indicated that the differences between 2012 and 2013 were greater than usual. Several different factors could account for these differences, and these are discussed.