Arctic seabirds, as migratory species, spend summer in the Arctic and winter in marine environment in southern areas. Therefore, they are exposed to contrasted concentrations of pollutants like Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) and mercury (Hg). In Kongsfjorden, the five glaciers have all been decreasing probably releasing historical and deposited pollutants. In the marine environment where they winter, it has been found that those pollutants are widely and heterogeneously found. As seabirds are particularly sensitive to the pollutants’ toxicity via effects on behavior, reproduction and long-term population dynamics, it is important to assess their long-term effects.
The current observations of seabirds population from Kongsfjorden indicate while the great skua population is increasing and the Arctic skua population is presumed stable, the common eider population is decreasing. However, the long-term quantitative effects of pollutants on adult survival on those three species has not yet been explored. Therefore, within this project we want so examine if long-term contamination by pollutants are responsible for such population trends. Ultimately, this work will be essential to evaluate the risk of long-term and acute exposure to pollutants on those populations, and ultimately help their conservation in Svalbard.
Since 2007, NINA has been monitoring the population of those three seabird species and have been measuring concentrations of POPs and Hg. The additionnal field season will allow us to gather 17 years of data, essential to understand the long term effects.