Plastic ingestion in the arctic glaucous gull



by LORENZO CIOTTI

Plastic ingestion in the arctic glaucous gull

Arctic Glaucous gull has a high arctic distribution. In the north-east Atlantic it occurs in Greenland, Iceland, Jan Mayen, Svalbard, Franz Josef Land and Novaya Zemlya. Most glaucous gulls leave Svalbard in September or October and spend winter dispersed through the North Atlantic both along the coasts and in the open sea and as far south as Iceland, the Faroes and southern Greenland.

First documentation of plastic ingestion in the arctic glaucous gull

First documentation of plastic ingestion in the arctic glaucous gull (Larus hyperboreus), published on the Science Total Environment, told: "Arctic wildlife is facing multiple stressors, including increasing plastic pollution.

Seabirds are intrinsic to marine ecosystems, but most seabird populations are declining. We lack knowledge on plastic ingestion in many arctic seabird species, and there is an urgent need for more information to enable risk assessment and monitoring.

Our study aimed to investigate the occurrence of plastics in glaucous gulls (Larus hyperboreus) breeding on Svalbard. The glaucous gull is a sentinel species for the health of the arctic marine ecosystem, but there have been no studies investigating plastic occurrence in this species since 1994.

As a surface feeder and generalist living in an area with high human activity on Svalbard, we expected to find plastic in its stomach. We investigated for plastic> 1 mm and documented plastic ingestion for the first time in glaucous gulls , with a frequency of occurrence of 14.3% (n = 21).

The plastics were all identified as user plastics and consisted of polyprop ylene (PP) and polystyrene (PS). Our study provides new quantitative and qualitative data on plastic burden and polymer type reported in a standardized manner establishing a reference point for future research and monitoring of arctic gulls on national and international levels." The glaucous gull breeds throughout most of Svalbard, either as single pairs or in small colonies.

Their breeding areas are most often situated close to colonies of other seabirds. Glaucous gulls can also breed on small islets together with colonies of common eiders and geese. Most glaucous gulls leave Svalbard in September-October and spend winter dispersed through the North Atlantic from the Barents Sea to Iceland. The birds return gradually to their breeding colonies in March and April.