Evaluation of meso- and microplastic ingestion by the northern fulmar through a non-lethal sampling method
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionMarine Pollution Bulletin. 2023, 196, 115646. 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2023.115646
An increasing number of organisms from the polar regions are reported contaminated by plastic. Rarely a non-killing sampling method is used. In this study we wanted to assess plastic levels using stomach flushing and evaluate the method suitability for further research and monitoring. The stomach of 22 fulmars from Bjørnøya, Svalbard, were flushed with water in the field. On return to the laboratory, the regurgitated content was digested using potassium hydroxide. The extracted plastics were visually characterised and analysed with spectroscopy. Only three birds had plastics in their stomach, totaling 36 particles, most of them microplastics (< 5 mm). The plastic burdens are much lower than previously reported in Svalbard. The stomach flushing is assumed not to allow the collection of the gizzard content. This is a major limitation as most of the plastics accumulate in the fulmar's gizzard. However, the method is still useful for studies investigating plastic ingestion dynamics, allowing to sample the same individuals over time.