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Biotransport of metallic trace elements from marine to terrestrial ecosystems by seabirds

Shoji, A., Elliott, K.H., Aris‐Brosou, S., Mizukawa, H., Nakayama, S.M.M., Ikenaka, Y., Ishizuka, M., Kuwae, T., Watanabe, K., Escoruela Gonzalez, J., Watanuki, Y.
Environmental toxicology and chemistry 2019 v.38 no.1 pp. 106-114
Cerorhinca monocerata, breeding, breeding sites, carbon, feces, heavy metals, mercury, metalloids, nitrogen, seabirds, soil, stable isotopes, terrestrial ecosystems, tissues, trace elements, wind
Physical systems, such as currents and winds, have traditionally been considered responsible for transporting contaminants. Although evidence is mounting that animals play a role in this process through their movements, we still know little about how such contaminant biotransport occurs and the extent of effects at deposition sites. In the present study, we address this question by studying how rhinoceros auklets (Cerorhinca monocerata), a seabird that occurs in immense colonies (∼300 000 pairs at our study site, Teuri Island), affect contaminant levels at their colony and at nearby sites. More specifically, we hypothesize that contaminants are transported and deposited by seabirds at their colony and that these contaminants are passed on locally to the terrestrial ecosystem. To test this hypothesis, we analyzed the concentration of 9 heavy metal and metalloids, as well as δ¹³C and δ¹⁵N stable isotopes, in bird tissues, plants, and soil, both within and outside of the colony. The results show that rhinoceros auklets transport marine‐derived mercury (Hg), possibly from their wintering location, and deposit Hg via their feces at their breeding site, thereby contaminating plants and soils within the breeding colony. The present study confirms not only that animals can transport contaminants from marine to terrestrial ecosystems, potentially over unexpectedly long distances, but also that bird tissues contribute locally to plant contamination. Environ Toxicol Chem 2019;38:106–114. © 2018 SETAC