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Essential and non-essential elements in feathers of Snow bunting nestlings of Longyearbyen and Adventdalen - Svalbard
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- Institutt for biologi 
AbstractOne of the important anthropogenic stressors for the natural environment is pollution. The presence of contaminants, such as heavy metals presents great risks for all living organisms, including humans. Therefore, it is important to continuously monitor levels and impacts of pollutants in the environment. Levels of pollutants released to the environment due to anthropogenic activities like metal pollution from mining activities or urban development can be assessed by measuring bioavailable levels of pollutants in living organisms also known as biomonitors. In this current study snow bunting nestlings (Plectrophenax nivalis) were used as biomonitors to assess local metal pollution due to the coal mining activities and urban settlement in Longyearbyen. This was done by measuring the levels of elements in feathers of snow bunting nestlings using high resolution inductively coupled mass spectrometry (HR-ICMS). The hypothesis was that the coal power plant in Longyearbyen was the main source of local metal pollution and that there was a pollution gradient from the coal power plant towards mine 6 mines in Adventdalen. Nestling feathers were collected from 147 nestlings, which were of 5-6 weeks old from 31 nests in the neighboring area around and along the old cable line between Longyearbyen town and coal mine 6 in Adventdalen between May and June 2014. Feathers from all nestlings in one nest were pooled together thus concentration of metals presented in this report is per nest. The concentration of 58 elements in feathers was measured by HR-ICMS but only 38 elements were found to be within limits of detection (LOD), and only 20 elements of elements above LOD are discussed in this report. The elements discussed in this study are cadmium (Cd), cobalt (Co), tin (Sn), vanadium (V), mercury (Hg), lead (Pb), chromium (Cr), selenium (Se), barium (Ba), manganese (Mn), copper (Cu), strontium (Sr), zinc (Zn), iron (Fe), aluminum (Al), silicon (Si), sodium (Na), calcium (Ca), potassium (K) and magnesium (Mg). The results showed that the essential metals Mg (606±350 µg/g dry weight (dw)), K (580±390 µg/g dw), Na (243±174 µg/g dw) and Ca (574±236 µg/g dw) respectively were the most abundant elements, Cd (0.01±0.02 µg/g dw), Co (0.03±0.03 µg/g dw), Sn (0.08±0.22 µg/g dw) and V (0.21±0.18 µg/g dw) were the least abundant elements measured in this study. Thus the order of elements concentrations in the feathers was Mg > K > Ca > Na > S i > Al > Fe > Zn > Sr > Cu > Mn > Ba > Ba > Se > Cr > Pb > Hg > V > Sn > Co > Cd. A pollution gradient, with the levels of elements increasing from the Power plant in Longyearbyen to Mine 6 in Adventdalen was identified for metals Cd (P=0.012), Mn (P=0.022) and Cr (P=0.028). Other elements like Si (P=0.056), Fe (P=0.075), Al (P=0.076), Co (P=0.083), Sn (P=0.094) and Ba (P=0.094) also showed tendencies of positive correlation (P value between 0.05 and 0.1) with distance from the power plant in Longyearbyen to mine 6 in Adventdalen. Also in a principle component analysis (PCA) the essential elements showed Mg, Na and K showed a positively close correlation and that the elements Mn, Co, Fe, Si, Ba and Al were very closely correlated. The results also indicated that concentration of elements increased further away from the coal power plant but increased close to mine 6 in Adventdalen. Since mine 6 had not been active for a long time, the high levels of elements observed around mine 6 was attributed to a damping site of wastes from the coal power plant located close to mine 6 in Adventdalen. Thus the results disproved the hypothesis that the coal power plant in Longyearbyen was the main source of pollution. The concentration of elements in feathers of snow bunting nestlings in this current study were low compared to those reported in other previous studies. Also the levels found in feathers of snow buntings in this current study were below threshold levels in feathers that have been found to cause adverse effects in birds. Therefore levels of elements in snow bunting of this current study may not be of environmental concern. However this being one of the first studies to measure levels of essential and non-essential elements in snow bunting, future biomonitoring studies of elements in feathers or other body parts are recommended, and also even though concentrations measured in this study were low, future studies on effects of toxic elements in snow buntings are highly recommended.