Relationship between legacy and emerging organic pollutants in Antarctic seabirds and their foraging ecology as shown by δ13C and δ15N

Flávia V. Mello, Jose L. Roscales, Yago S. Guida, Jorge F.S. Menezes, Alba Vicente, Erli S. Costa, Begoña Jiménez, João Paulo M. Torres

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Foraging ecology and the marine regions exploited by Antarctic seabirds outside of breeding strongly influence their exposure to persistent organic pollutants (POPs). However, relationships between them are largely unknown, an important knowledge gap given that many species are capital breeders and POPs may be deleterious to seabirds. This study investigates the relationship between Antarctic seabird foraging ecology (measured by δ13C and δ15N) and POPs accumulated in their eggs prior to breeding. Organochlorinated pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), and dechlorane plus (DP) were measured in eggs of chinstrap, Adélie, and gentoo penguins (Pygoscelis antarctica, P. adeliae, P. papua), as well as south polar skua (Catharacta maccormicki), sampled on King George Island. Total POP levels were as follows: skua (3210 ± 3330 ng/g lipid weight) > chinstrap (338 ± 128 ng/g) > Adélie (287 ± 43.3 ng/g) > gentoo (252 ± 49.4 ng/g). Trophic position and pre-breeding foraging sites were important in explaining POP accumulation patterns across species. The most recalcitrant compounds were preferentially accumulated in skuas, occupying one trophic level above penguins. In contrast, their Antarctic endemism, coupled with influence from cold condensation of pollutants, likely contributed to penguins exhibiting higher concentrations of more volatile compounds (e.g., hexachlorobenzene, PCB-28 and − 52) than skuas. Regional differences in penguin pre-breeding foraging areas did not significantly affect their POP burdens, whereas the trans-equatorial migration and foraging sites of skuas were strongly reflected in their pollutant profiles, especially for PBDEs and DPs. Overall, our results provide new insights on migratory birds as biovectors of POPs, including non-globally regulated compounds such as DP, from northern regions to Antarctica.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1380-1389
Number of pages10
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - 15 Dec 2016


  • Dechlorane plus
  • Organochlorinated pesticides
  • Polybrominated diphenyl ethers
  • Polychlorinated biphenyls
  • Stable isotopes
  • Trophic ecology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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