"Mercury is an increasing problem for Arctic wildlife as more is emitted by coal power stations and other anthropogenic means," said Bond, who completed the research with the U of S biology department and recently joined on with the UK-based Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
"We wanted to see if the high mercury levels experienced by the gulls was a recent phenomenon, and possibly determine if it was linked to their decline over the past three decades."
The research team examined museum specimens of breast feathers, measuring the mercury burdens of 80 ivory gulls dating from 2007 to as far back as 1877. They found that, despite no changes in the gull's diet, methyl mercury concentrations were 45 times higher than 130 years ago.
"With mercury projected to continue increasing in the Arctic, this raises concerns for this endangered bird in Canada," said Bond.
The research group also included Brian Branfireun from Western University and Keith Hobson, an adjunct professor from the U of S Department of Biology working atÂ Environment Canada's National Hydrology Research Centre in Saskatoon.
For more information:
Senior Conservation Scientist, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
+44 (0) 1767 693432