Biomonitoring of heavy metals in the pacific basin using avian feathers

Authors

  • Joanna Burger,

    Corresponding author
    1. Biological Sciences, and Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute, Rutgers University, Piscataway, New Jersey 08855
    • Biological Sciences, and Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute, Rutgers University, Piscataway, New Jersey 08855
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  • Michael Gochfeld

    1. Environmental and Community Medicine, and Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute, UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Piscataway, New Jersey 08855
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Abstract

We used avian feathers to biomonitor heavy-metal distribution in several areas in the Pacific Basin including Papua New Guinea, Australia, New Zealand, China, Johnston Atoll, Hawaii, and Costa Rica. This paper is a preliminary synthesis of data gathered by the Pacific Basin Biomonitoring Project. We examined levels of mercury, lead, cadmium, selenium, chromium, and manganese. For sooty terns (Sterna fuscata) and brown noddy (Anous stolidus) mercury levels were lower in the Pacific than in Puerto Rico in the Atlantic, but this was reversed for lead and cadmium. Adult birds had higher metal levels in their feathers than did young birds of the same species from the same area. Cadmium levels were higher in terrestrial species; lead, chromium, and manganese were highest in coastal species; and mercury and selenium were highest in marine species. Mercury levels were lowest in forest species, intermediate in species that eat insects and small vertebrates, and highest in species that eat intermediate to large fish. Lead levels were highest in species feeding in industrialized estuaries of Hong Kong.

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