White-faced storm-petrels Pelagodroma marina predated by gulls as biological monitors of plastic pollution in the pelagic subtropical Northeast Atlantic

Ricardo Furtado, Dilia Menezes, Carolina Jardim Santos, Paulo Catry
Marine Pollution Bulletin 2016 November 15, 112 (1-2): 117-122
Marine plastic pollution is rapidly growing and is a source of major concern. Seabirds often ingest plastic debris and are increasingly used as biological monitors of plastic pollution. However, virtually no studies have assessed plastics in seabirds in the deep subtropical North Atlantic. We investigated whether remains of white-faced storm-petrels (WFSP) present in gull pellets could be used for biomonitoring. We analysed 263 pellets and 79.0% of these contained plastic debris originating in the digestive tract of WFSP. Pellets with no bird prey did not contain plastics. Most debris were fragments (83.6%) with fewer plastic pellets (8.2%). Light-coloured plastics predominated (71.0%) and the most frequent polymer was HDPE (73.0%). Stable isotopes in toe-nails of WFSP containing many versus no plastics did not differ, indicating no individual specialisation leading to differential plastic ingestion. We suggest WFSP in pellets are highly suitable to monitor the little known pelagic subtropical Northeast Atlantic.

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