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Environ Sci Technol. 2007 Feb 15;41(4):1173-9.

Seabird guano is an efficient conveyer of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) to Arctic lake ecosystems.

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Akvaplan-niva, Polar Environmental Centre, 9296 Tromso, Norway.


Migratory seabirds have been linked to localized "hotspots" of contamination in remote Arctic lakes. One of these lakes is Lake Ellasjøen on Bjørnøya in the Barents Sea. Here we provide quantitative evidence demonstrating that even relatively small populations of certain seabird species can lead to major impacts for ecosystems. In the present example, seabird guano accounts for approximately 14% of the contaminant inventory of the Lake Ellasjøen catchment area, approximately 80% of the contaminant inventory of the lake itself, and is approximately thirty times more efficient as a contaminant transport pathway compared to atmospheric long-range transport. We have further shown that this biological transport mechanism is an important contaminant exposure route for ecosystems, responsible for POPs levels in freshwater fish that are an order of magnitude higher than those in Arctic top predators. Given the worldwide presence of seabird colonies in coastal marine areas where resources are also harvested by humans, this biological transport pathway may be a greater source of dietary contamination than is currently recognized with consequent risks for human health.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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