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Using blood and feathers to investigate large-scale Hg contamination in Arctic seabirds: A review

Abstract : Mercury (Hg), because of its deleterious effects on wildlife and its high concentrations in polar regions, has been widely studied in the Arctic. This provided important information regarding food web contamination, spatial and temporal trends of Hg in ecosystems or risk assessments for wildlife and Humans. Among the Arctic biota, seabirds have been among the most studied species due to their sensitivity to this toxicant, their role as bioindicators of the contamination status of their environment, and their consumption by Arctic communities. However, most studies which investigated Hg in Arctic seabirds focused on measurements in internal organs or in eggs, while few investigations has been performed on blood and feathers, despite the relevant and complementary information they provide. Here, we first provide a detailed overview of the specific information blood and feathers can bring when investigating Hg contamination of Arctic seabirds, including new knowledge on the poorly studied non-breeding period. Second, we performed a comprehensive review of the use of blood and feathers as non-lethal tissues to study Hg in Arctic seabirds. This review demonstrates important interspecific variations in Hg blood concentrations according to bird trophic status, with seaducks having generally the lowest Hg concentrations while auks have the highest ones, although all concentrations are below admitted toxicity thresholds. Hg concentrations in feathers follow similar trends, although gulls appear to be the most contaminated species, likely as a consequence of contrasting migratory and overwintering strategies. Overall, this review also confirms strong spatial variations with higher concentrations found in the Canadian Arctic and Pacific waters than in Greenland and the European Arctic. It also identifies some major understudied areas like in West Greenland, Aleutian Islands and Russia. Finally, we provide a thorough review of the current knowledge regarding molting patterns in Arctic seabirds, an essential information to interpret Hg concentrations measured in feathers. Overall, our results point out the importance of blood and feathers in seabird ecotoxicological assessments and highlights the need for large scale international collaborations and research programs.
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Submitted on : Sunday, December 27, 2020 - 11:45:15 PM
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Albert et al 2020 ENV RES.pdf
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Céline Albert, Marina Renedo, Paco Bustamante, Jérôme Fort. Using blood and feathers to investigate large-scale Hg contamination in Arctic seabirds: A review. Environmental Research, Elsevier, 2019, 177, pp.108588. ⟨10.1016/j.envres.2019.108588⟩. ⟨hal-02318368⟩



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