Recent research has revealed that seabirds in the European Arctic are ingesting high amounts of plastic litter considering relatively low human impact in the region at present. A sixth gyre has been suggested in the Barents Sea, where plastic litter may accumulate, potentially leading to a higher exposure for the wildlife. This project will investigate the effects of plastic on northern fulmars, an indicator species of plastic pollution in Europe, as defined by the Oslo-Paris Convention in 2009. Plastic ingestion by fulmars (Fulmarus glacialis) has been monitored during several decades in northern Europe. As well as blocking the digestive tract, there is mounting evidence to suggest that plastic ingestion results in a chemical burden in body tissues. Such organic chemicals, that can adsorb to the plastic surface or leach out from the plastic itself, may cause disruption of an organism’s physiology. This project aims to (1) investigate plastic ingestion by the northern fulmar in Svalbard, both adults and chicks, by using a non-lethal sampling method, a new plastic extraction method and infrared spectroscopy to determine the plastic composition, and (2) correlate plastic contents with well-known associated pollutant (phthalates, bisphenol A and polybrominated diphenyl ethers) concentrations in blood. This project will add valuable data about plastic ingestion by the northern fulmar, by providing a monitoring continuum. It is hoped that reports and publications originated from our study will inform the scientific community, the general public, and the relevant policy makers about the fragile Arctic, despite its low human population.
Project manager: Geir Wing Gabrielsen
Project code: 447 842019