Friday, May 3, 2013

Seabirds Carry Warnings of Ocean Pollution


The best tools for tracking how well pollution-reduction laws are working may be seabirds.

Seabirds, including pelicans, gulls and terns, are at the top of the food chain, and they absorb the toxins and pollutants contained in the fish they eat, researchers write in the May 3 issue of the journal Science. And because seabirds forage over wide areas of oceans but come back to one spot each year to breed, they provide scientists with a one-stop-shop to sample from a broad geographic region.

"They essentially go out much of the year onto the ocean, and they sample for you," said John Elliott, of Environment Canada, who penned the piece with University of Manitoba researcher Kyle Elliott. "As they're feeding, they're exposed to contaminants, particularly the bioaccumulative ones that we're most interested in."

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