Seabird colonies as relevant sources of pollutants in Antarctic ecosystems: Part 1 - Trace elements

Abstract : Global distillation is classically pointed as the biggest responsible for contaminant inputs in Polar ecosystems. Mercury (Hg) and other trace elements (TEs) also present natural sources, whereas the biologically mediated input is typically ignored. However, bioaccumulation and biomagnification combined with the fact that seabirds gather in large numbers into large colonies and excrete on land might represent an important local TEs input. A previous work suggested these colonies as sources of not only nutrients, but also organic contaminants. To evaluate a similar hypothesis for TEs, samples of lichen (n = 55), mosses (n = 58) and soil (n = 37) were collected in 13 locations within the South Shetlands Archipelago during the austral summers of 2013-14 and 2014-15. They were divided in: "colony" (within the colony itself for soil and bordering it for vegetation) and "control" (at least 50m away from colony interference), analysed for TEs (As, Cd, Co, Cr, Cu, Fe, Hg, Mn, Ni, Pb, Se, V, and Zn) and stable isotopes (C and N). In most cases, soil seems the best matrix to assess colonies as TEs sources, as it presented more differences between control/colony sites than vegetation. Colonies are clearly local sources of organic matter, Cd, Hg and likely of As, Se and Zn. Conversely, Co, Cr, Ni and Pb come presumably from other sources, natural or anthropogenic. In general, isotopes were more useful for interpreting vegetation data due to fractionation of absorbed animal-derived organic matter. Other local Hg sources could be inferred from high levels in control sites, location and wind patterns.
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C.V.Z. Cipro, P. Bustamante, M.V. Petry, R.C. Montone. Seabird colonies as relevant sources of pollutants in Antarctic ecosystems: Part 1 - Trace elements. Chemosphere, Elsevier, 2018, 204, pp.535-547. ⟨10.1016/j.chemosphere.2018.02.048⟩. ⟨hal-02014986⟩

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