Researchers from Norway and the Netherlands have cooperated in a study showing that the uptake of pollutants in the body is probably not determined by the amounts of plastic digested by the birds.

The amount of plastic in the stomachs of northern fulmars has been defined as an indicator of marine plastic pollution in European waters, but little knowledge exists on whether the digested plastic contributes to the uptake of pollutants in the birds. Researchers have now compared the concentrations of so-called persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in the body tissue of fulmars collected in Norwegian waters with the concentration of the same POPs in the loads of ingested plastic in their stomachs. They found no relation between the amount of ingested plastic and concentration of pollutants in the same birds. On the basis of a series of analyses, the researchers concluded that the amount and composition of pollutants in the fulmars most likely reflect the level of pollutants in their prey species.

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 Contact person: Tycho Anker-Nilssen, NINA

Northern fulmars feed off the ocean surface, and they may easily mistake plastic items for prey.
Photo: Tycho Anker-Nilssen