A new study by scientists from the University of Tasmania, CSIRO and the University of South Australia is the first to find a relationship between plastic debris ingested by seabirds and liver concentrations of mineral metals, with potential links to pollution and nutrition.
The research published in the journal Scientific Reports today examined ingested plastic and 11 metals and metalloids in two seabird species and found significant relationships with concentrations of aluminium, manganese, iron, cobalt, copper and zinc in the livers of slender-billed prions.
UTAS and CSIRO lead author Dr Lauren Roman said the effects were small, but given that seabirds already experience multiple challenges of the high seas such as prey shortage and severe storms, plastic may compound the impact of other stressors such as fisheries and climate change.
“Our study is the first to show a relationship in seabirds between plastic pollution, which is increasingly ubiquitous in our oceans, and the concentration of mineral nutrients in the liver,” Dr Roman said.
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