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Temporal and Spatial Distribution of Mercury in Gulls Eggs from the Iberian Peninsula

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/04/2019
<mark>Journal</mark>Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology
Issue number3
Number of pages11
Pages (from-to)394-404
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date18/12/18
<mark>Original language</mark>English


We examined how coastal mercury contamination varied spatially and temporally across the Iberian Peninsula by measuring mercury concentrations in the eggs of the sentinel biomonitor yellow-legged gull (Larus michahellis). Samples were collected from eight colonies that ranged from the Atlantic across the south and northern areas of the Mediterranean. We also measured Hg residues in eggs of the one of the most endangered gull species in the world, the Audouin’s gull (Larus audouinii) from the Ebro Delta, where colonies of yellow-legged and Audouin’s gull co-occur. Fresh eggs were collected in 2009 and 2016 and samples were pooled from each colony for analysis. Mercury concentrations in yellow-legged gulls ranged between 0.4 and 2.8 mg/kg dry weight (dw); although there were no significant differences in concentrations between sampling periods, significant differences were found between colonies. Higher concentrations were associated with northern Mediterranean colonies (Columbretes and Ebro Delta), likely due to proximity to emission sources, circulatory marine currents and diet composition. Mercury concentrations in yellow-legged gull eggs were lower than those reported to result in impaired hatching. Residues in Audouin’s gull eggs from the Ebro Delta were significantly higher (4.0–5.6 mg/kg dw) than those in yellow-legged gull from the same location, probably associated with dietary differences. Mercury levels in Audouin’s gull were ten times above the benchmark suggested to reduce nest success by 10%. Overall, these results raise concern for adverse health impacts in this protected seabird species and further investigation in Audouin’s gull eggs from the Ebro Delta is recommended. © 2018, The Author(s).