Mercury concentrations in seabird tissues from Machias Seal Island, New Brunswick, Canada

Alexander L. Bond, Antony W. Diamond

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

78 Citations (Scopus)


Mercury is a pervasive environmental contaminant, the anthropogenic portion of which is increasing globally, and in northeastern North America in particular. Seabirds frequently are used as indicators of the marine environment, including mercury contamination. We analysed paired samples for total mercury (Hg) concentrations in feathers and blood from adult and chick, albumen, and lipid-free yolk of seven seabirds breeding on Machias Seal Island, New Brunswick, Canada - Arctic Tern (Sterna paradisaea), Atlantic Puffin (Fratercula arctica), Common Eider (Somateria mollissima), Common Murre (Uria aalge), Common Tern (Sterna hirundo), Leach's Storm-petrel (Oceanodroma leucorhoa), and Razorbill (Alca torda). We also used stable-isotope ratios of carbon (δ13C), and nitrogen (δ15N) to evaluate the relationship between carbon source and trophic position and mercury. We found high Hg concentrations across tissue types in Leach's Storm-petrels, and Razorbills, with lower concentrations in other species, the lowest being in Common Eiders. Storm-petrels prey on mesopelagic fish that accumulate mercury, and Razorbills feed on larger, older fish that bioaccumulate heavy metals. Biomagnification of Hg, or the increase in Hg concentration with trophic position as measured by δ15N, was significant and greater in albumen than other tissues, whereas in other tissues, δ15N explained little of the overall variation in Hg concentration. Hg concentrations in egg components are higher on Machias Seal Island than other sites globally and in the Gulf of Maine region, but only for some species. Further detailed investigations are required to determine the cause of this trend.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4340-4347
Number of pages8
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2009


  • Bay of Fundy
  • Biomagnification
  • Mercury
  • Seabird
  • Stable isotopes
  • Trophic position


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