Trace Element Concentrations in Wintering Waterfowl From the Great Salt Lake, Utah

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Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology







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The Great Salt Lake (GSL) is an important region for millions of migratory waterbirds. However, high concentrations of some trace elements, including Hg and Se, have been detected within the GSL, and baseline ecotoxicological data are lacking for avian species in this system. We collected common goldeneye (Bucephala clangula), northern shoveler (Anas clypeata), and green-winged teal (A. crecca) from the GSL during the winters of 2004–2005 and 2005–2006 to evaluate sources of variation in liver trace element concentrations. Hg concentrations were among or exceeded the highest values reported in the published literature for common goldeneye, northern shoveler, and green-winged teal. Average Hg (total) concentrations of common goldeneye peaked in midwinter, whereas average Se concentrations peaked during late winter. During late winter, 100% and 88% of female goldeneye contained elevated concentrations of Hg [≥1.0 μg/g wet weight (ww)] and Se (≥3.0 μg/g ww), respectively, and 5% and 14% contained potentially harmful amounts of Hg (≥30.0 μg/g ww) and Se (> 10.0 μg/g ww), respectively. Similarly, 30% and 16% of male goldeneye contained potentially harmful concentrations of Hg and Se, respectively. Concentrations of Hg and Se were elevated in 100% and 79%, respectively, of northern shoveler samples (sexes combined) collected during February. We suggest that waterfowl contain biologically concerning amounts of Hg and Se during winter while on the GSL and further research is needed to evaluate the effect of these elements on GSL waterbirds.