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A study of wrecked Dovekies (Alle alle) in the western North Atlantic highlights the importance of using standardized methods to quantify plastic ingestion

Avery-Gomm, Stephanie, Valliant, Michelle, Schacter, Carley R., Robbins, Katherine F., Liboiron, Max, Daoust, Pierre-Yves, Rios, Lorena M., Jones, Ian L.
Marine pollution bulletin 2016 v.113 no.1-2 pp. 75-80
aquatic food webs, body condition, histology, ingestion, marine ecosystems, melting, plastics, polypropylenes, researchers, seabirds, wastes, water pollution, Canada
Quantification of plastic ingestion across a range of seabirds is required to assess the prevalence of plastics in marine food webs. We quantified plastic ingestion in beached Dovekies (Alle alle), following a wreck in Newfoundland, Canada. Of 171 birds, 30.4% had ingested plastic (mean 0.81±0.30 SE pieces per bird, mass 0.005±0.002 SE g per bird). Most plastics were fragments of polyethylene and polypropylene. Surprisingly, 37% were burned or melted, indicating a previously unreported source of ingested plastics (incinerated waste). We found no relationship between plastic ingestion and age, sex or body condition. By comparing our results with a similar nearby study, we illustrate the need for researchers to adopt standardized methods for plastic ingestion studies. We underline the importance of using histological techniques to reliably identify gastric pathologies, and advise caution when inferring population level trends in plastic ingestion from studies of emaciated, wrecked birds.