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Mercury and selenium contamination in waterbird eggs and risk to avian reproduction at Great Salt Lake, Utah

February 2, 2015

The wetlands of the Great Salt Lake ecosystem are recognized regionally, nationally, and hemispherically for their importance as breeding, wintering, and migratory habitat for diverse groups of waterbirds. Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge is the largest freshwater component of the Great Salt Lake ecosystem and provides critical breeding habitat for more than 60 bird species. However, the Great Salt Lake ecosystem also has a history of both mercury and selenium contamination, and this pollution could reduce the health and reproductive success of waterbirds. The overall objective of this study was to evaluate the risk of mercury and selenium contamination to birds breeding within Great Salt Lake, especially at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, and to identify the waterbird species and areas at greatest risk to contamination. We sampled eggs from 33 species of birds breeding within wetlands of Great Salt Lake during 2010 ̶ 2012 and focused on American avocets (Recurvirostra americana), black-necked stilts (Himantopus mexicanus), Forster’s terns (Sterna forsteri), white-faced ibis (Plegadis chihi), and marsh wrens (Cistothorus palustris) for additional studies of the effects of contaminants on reproduction.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2015
Title Mercury and selenium contamination in waterbird eggs and risk to avian reproduction at Great Salt Lake, Utah
DOI 10.3133/ofr20151020
Authors Joshua T. Ackerman, Mark P. Herzog, Christopher A. Hartman, John P. Isanhart, Garth Herring, Sharon Vaughn, John F. Cavitt, Collin A. Eagles-Smith, Howard Browers, Chris Cline, Josh Vest
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 2015-1020
Index ID ofr20151020
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Ecological Research Center