A century of mercury: Ecosystem-wide changes drive increasing contamination of a tropical seabird species in the South Atlantic Ocean - Université de Pau et des Pays de l'Adour Access content directly
Journal Articles Environmental Pollution Year : 2023

A century of mercury: Ecosystem-wide changes drive increasing contamination of a tropical seabird species in the South Atlantic Ocean

Fanny Cusset
Jérôme Fort
Jaime Ramos

Abstract

Mercury (Hg) is a highly toxic metal that adversely impacts human and wildlife health. The amount of Hg released globally in the environment has increased steadily since the Industrial Revolution, resulting in growing contamination in biota. Seabirds have been extensively studied to monitor Hg contamination in the world’s oceans. Multidecadal increases in seabird Hg contamination have been documented in polar, temperate and subtropical regions, whereas in tropical regions they are largely unknown. Since seabirds accumulate Hg mainly from their diet, their trophic ecology is fundamental in understanding their Hg exposure over time. Here, we used the sooty tern (Onychoprion fuscatus), the most abundant tropical seabird, as bioindicator of temporal variations in Hg transfer to marine predators in tropical ecosystems in response to trophic changes and other potential drivers. Body feathers were sampled from 220 sooty terns, from museum specimens (n=134) and free-living birds (n=86) from Ascension Island, in the South Atlantic Ocean, over 145 years (1876-2021). Chemical analyses included (i) Hg (total- and methyl-Hg), and (ii) carbon (δ¹³C) and nitrogen (δ¹5N) stable isotopes, as proxies of foraging habitat and trophic position, respectively, to investigate the relationship between trophic ecology and Hg contamination over time. Despite current regulations on its global emissions, mean Hg concentrations were 58.9% higher in the 2020s (2.0 µg/g, n=34) than in the 1920s (1.2 µg/g, n=107). Feather Hg concentrations were negatively and positively associated with δ¹³C and δ¹5N values. The sharp decline of 2.9 ‰ in δ¹³C values over time indicates ecosystem-wide changes (shifting primary productivity) in the tropical South Atlantic Ocean and can help explain the observed increase in tern’s feather Hg concentrations. Overall, this study provides invaluable information on how ecosystem-wide changes can increase Hg contamination of tropical marine predators and reinforces the need for long-term regulations of harmful contaminants at the global scale.
Fichier principal
Vignette du fichier
Cusset et al. 2023.pdf (887.64 Ko) Télécharger le fichier
Origin : Files produced by the author(s)

Dates and versions

hal-04005655 , version 1 (26-02-2023)

Identifiers

Cite

Fanny Cusset, S. James Reynolds, Alice Carravieri, David Amouroux, Océane Asensio, et al.. A century of mercury: Ecosystem-wide changes drive increasing contamination of a tropical seabird species in the South Atlantic Ocean. Environmental Pollution, 2023, 323, pp.121187. ⟨10.1016/j.envpol.2023.121187⟩. ⟨hal-04005655⟩
34 View
148 Download

Altmetric

Share

Gmail Facebook X LinkedIn More