Circulating trace elements: Comparison between early and late incubation in common eiders (Somateria mollissima) in the central Baltic Sea
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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We analyzed body mass and a panel of 64 trace elements in blood from incubating common eiders (Somateria mollissima) in the central Baltic Sea during the breeding seasons of 2017 (n = 27) and 2018 (n = 23). Using a non-invasive approach, the same incubating eiders nesting on Christiansø, Denmark were sampled once on day 4 and day 24 of incubation to provide a comparison between the early and late stages of incubation. Blood concentrations of chemical elements were quantified using high-resolution inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (HR-ICP-MS). Cadmium and lead significantly increased over the course of the incubation period while body mass, barium, calcium, cerium, cesium, iron, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, phosphorus, selenium, strontium, sulfur, uranium, and zinc all significantly decreased. Excluding lead, all trace elements were within expected ranges. Lead blood concentrations had a 4.7-fold increase from 2017 to 2018 indicating a potential health threat. However, internal interactions between trace elements must be considered when making comparisons to toxicological thresholds. Body mass and many essential elements showed significantly higher levels in 2017 than 2018, which could be an indication of limitations in preferred food availability or harsher fasting conditions. Additional sampling years are needed to further investigate if these results reflect yearly fluctuations or decreasing health within the Christiansø eider colony. There was little overlap in element blood concentrations and body mass between days of incubation, indicating these parameters are affected by the physiological processes of reproduction and incubation. We recommend continued biomonitoring and use of complete trace element analysis for the Christiansø eiders to further understand year-to-year variations within colonies. Further investigation into the spatial ecology of the colony is also needed to provide a more robust understanding of exposure and source identification of trace elements.