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Co-contaminants of microplastics in two seabird species from the Canadian Arctic

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posted on 2023-01-24, 20:24 authored by Roxana SuehringRoxana Suehring, Julia E. Baak, Robert J. Letcher, Birgit M. Braune, Amila De Silva, Cody Dey, Kim Fernie, Zhe Lu, Mark L Mallory, Stephanie Avery-GommStephanie Avery-Gomm, Jennifer F. Provencher

Through ingestion and subsequent egestion, Arctic seabirds can bioaccumulate microplastics at and around their colony breeding sites. While microplastics in Arctic seabirds have been well documented, it is not yet understood to what extent these particles can act as transport vehicles for plastic-associated contaminants, including legacy persistent organic pollutants (POPs), trace metals, and organic additives. We investigated the occurrence and pattern of organic and inorganic co-contaminants of microplastics in two seabird species from the Canadian Arctic — northern fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis) and black-legged kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla). We found that fulmars had higher levels of plastic contamination and emerging organic compounds (known to be plastic additives) than kittiwakes, whereas higher concentrations of legacy POPs were found in kittiwakes than the fulmars. Furthermore, fulmars, the species with the much larger foraging range (∼200 km), had higher plastic pollution and overall contaminant burdens, indicating that birds may be acting as long-range transport vectors for plastic-associated pollution. Our results suggest a potential connection between plastic additive contamination and plastic pollution burdens in the bird stomachs, highlighting the importance of treating plastic particles and plastic-associated organic additives as co-contaminants rather than separate pollution issues.

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