Understanding the interactions and impacts of climate change and contaminants (exposure, effects) on Arctic seabirds at their southern range limits

Research shows that the exposure of wildlife to chemical pollutants can elicit endocrine disruptive and behavioral effects. Such potential effects may occur in Arctic seabirds that must concurrently deal with rapid environmental changes relating to climate change. Because the endocrine system plays a critical role in allowing animals to respond to environmental stress (e.g., changing ice patterns), endocrine disruption could influence the ability of wildlife to respond to climate change. We are examining such interactions with thick-billed murres (Uria lomvia) that feed from ice flows and breed in Hudson Bay, Canada. Reductions in ice result in the birds spending more energy to obtain less fish that may result in poorer reproductive success and chick development. We sought to determine whether a suite of contaminants that bioaccumulates in this species, and the influence of climate change, have an effect on avian wildlife by limiting their ability to respond to changes in ice availability. In 2016 through 2018, foraging behaviors and movements of > 67 thick-billed murres were tracked each year with GPS-accelerometers, and concentrations of thyroid hormones, corticosterone, total mercury (THg), a suite of flame retardants (FRs), and per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) were measured in the plasma of individuals. Levels of all measured PFASs and FRs were consistently low and unrelated to hormones or behavior. However, THg concentrations were associated with circulating triiodothyronine (T3) prior to foraging. In contrast to a “medium-ice” year (2016), in a “low-ice” year (2017), the relationship between T3 and THg was negative. The T3 concentrations of the birds prior to foraging were associated with their foraging behavior; in contrast to 2016, higher levels of T3 were associated with lower diving rates. We found no associations with plasma corticosterone. GPS tracks demonstrated that birds foraged to the north of the colony during incubation when ice was present, then moved to forage to the northwest as chick-rearing progressed when ice was no longer present. These results suggest that birds were foraging near regions of floating ice, which may improve foraging success and reduce diving rates. Based on our 2016-17 findings, we tentatively conclude that THg may influence the ability of these seabirds to adjust to variation in ice cover, and will further examine our hypothesis with 2018 data collected under different environmental conditions.

Source https://www.polardata.ca/pdcsearch/PDCSearchDOI.jsp?doi_id=12791
Metadata Access http://www.polardata.ca/oai/provider?verb=GetRecord&metadataPrefix=fgdc&identifier=12791_fgdc
Creator Fernie, Kim; Elliott, Kyle; Braune, Birgit; Head, Jessica; Letcher, Robert
Publisher Canadian Cryospheric Information Network
Contributor Polar Data Catalogue
Publication Year 2020
Rights Research programs, CCIN, or ArcticNet take no liability for the use or transmission of this data
OpenAccess true
Contact kim.fernie(at)canada.ca; pdc(at)uwaterloo.ca
Language English
Format Computer file
Discipline Environmental Research
Spatial Coverage (-84.139W, 61.000S, -81.561E, 64.000N)
Temporal Coverage Begin 2016-06-30T00:00:00Z
Temporal Coverage End 2018-09-01T00:00:00Z