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Arctic Seabirds Transport Marine-Derived Contaminants

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Science  15 Jul 2005:
Vol. 309, Issue 5733, pp. 445
DOI: 10.1126/science.1112658

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Abstract

Long-range atmospheric transport of pollutants is generally assumed to be the main vector for arctic contamination, because local pollution sources are rare. We show that arctic seabirds, which occupy high trophic levels in marine food webs, are the dominant vectors for the transport of marine-derived contaminants to coastal ponds. The sediments of ponds most affected by seabirds had 60 times higher DDT, 25 times higher mercury, and 10 times higher hexachlorobenzene concentrations than nearby control sites. Bird guano greatly stimulates biological productivity in these extreme environments but also serves as a major source of industrial and agricultural pollutants in these remote ecosystems.

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