Contaminants in tracked seabirds showing regional patterns of marine pollution

Atsuo Ito, Rei Yamashita, Hideshige Takada, Takashi Yamamoto, Kozue Shiomi, Carlos Zavalaga, Tomoya Abe, Shinichi Watanabe, Maki Yamamoto, Katsufumi Sato, Hiroyoshi Kohno, Ken Yoda, Tomohiko Iida, Yutaka Watanuki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Ocean-scale monitoring of pollution is challenging. Seabirds are useful indicators because they travel over a broad foraging range. Nevertheless, this coarse spatial resolution is not fine enough to discriminate pollution in a finer scale. Previous studies have demonstrated that pollution levels are higher in the Sea of Japan and South and East China Seas than the Northen Pacific Ocean. To test these findings in a wide-ranging animal, we tracked streaked shearwaters (Calonectris leucomelas) from four islands in Japan using global positioning system (GPS) and measured persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in the oil of their preen glands. The POPs did not change during 6 to 21 days when birds from Awashima were foraging only in the Sea of Japan, while it increased when they crossed to the Pacific through the Tsugaru Strait and foraged along the eastern coast of Hokkaido where industrial cities occur. These results indicate that POPs in the oil reflect relatively short-term exposure. Concentrations of POPs displayed greater variation among regions. Total polychlorinated biphenyls were highest in birds foraging in a small area of the semiclosed Seto Inland Sea surrounded by urbanized coast, p,p″- dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) was highest in birds foraging in the East China Sea, and total hexachlorocyclohexanes were highest in birds foraging in the Sea of Japan. All were lowest in birds foraging in the Pacific. This distribution of POPs concentration partly agrees with previous findings based on mussels, fish, and seawater and possibly reflects the mobility and emission sources of each type of POP. These results highlight the importance of information on the foraging area of highly mobile top predators to make them more effective monitors of regional marine pollution.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7862-7867
Number of pages6
JournalEnvironmental Science & Technology
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - 2013 Jul 16


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