UPDATED Plastics and trace metals in Laysan Albatrosses from Midway Atoll

UPDATE:  click here for the PDF.

Jennifer Lavers (Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania, Battery Point, Australia) and Alex Bond have published in the Marine Pollution Bulletin on correlations between ingested plastics and trace elements in two seabird species on Midway Atoll.

The paper’s abstract follows:

"Seabirds are declining faster than any other group of birds, with plastic ingestion and associated contaminants linked to negative impacts on marine wildlife, including >170 seabird species.  To provide quantitative data on the effects of plastic pollution, we sampled feathers and stomach contents from Laysan Albatross (Phoebastria immutabilis) and Bonin Petrel (Pterodroma hypoleuca) on Midway Atoll, North Pacific Ocean, and assessed our ability to detect change over time by synthesizing previous studies.  Between 25 and 100% of fledglings exceed international targets for plastic ingestion by seabirds.  High levels of ingested plastic were correlated with increased concentrations of chlorine, iron, lead, manganese, and rubidium in feathers.  The frequency of plastic ingestion by Laysan Albatross and concentration of some elements in both species is increasing, suggesting deterioration in the health of the marine environment.  Variability in the frequency of plastic ingestion by Laysan Albatross may limit their utility as an indicator species.”

Laysan Albatross 2 Midway Pete Leary s

Laysan Albatross guards its newly-hatched chick on Midway Atoll, photograph by Pete Leary


Lavers, J.L. & Bond A.L. 2016.  Ingested plastic as a route for trace metals in Laysan Albatross (Phoebastria immutabilis) and Bonin Petrel (Pterodroma hypoleuca) from Midway Atoll.  Marine Pollution Bulletin doi:10.1016/j.marpolbul.2016.06.001.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 23 June 2016, updated 27 june 2016

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