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Mercury poses a rising threat to Arctic birds
ivory gull
Concentrations of mercury in ivory gull feathers increased nearly 50-fold in 130 years.

Contaminant may be the cause of ivory gull declines

Rising exposure to mercury could be the cause of rapid declines in Arctic bird populations, particularly ivory gulls, according to new research.

Ivory gull populations have fallen by more than 80 per cent in Canada since the 1980s, leaving just 400-500 breeding pairs. However, the reasons for this are not well understood.

Biologists from Canada's University of Saskatchewan aimed to find out whether contaminants are to blame by analysing the burden of methyl mercury in feathers over the past 130 years.

Using feathers from museum specimens spanning 1877-2007, researchers found concentrations of mercury had increased nearly 50-fold, despite no evidence of dietary change during this period.

Writing in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B- Biological Sciences, the authors say: "Methyl mercury (MeHG) in ivory gull feathers increased significantly over the past 130 years, despite the lack of evidence of a shift in diet.

"We attribute this increase to increases in the amount of mercury (HG) in the environment that has been observed post-industrially and attributed to human activity."

With oceanic mercury expected to rise four-fold between 2005-2050, the findings have prompted concerns about continued dramatic declines in ivory gull  populations, as well as other high-latitude species.

For the full report, visit: http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/282/1805/20150032

Image © jomilo75/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 2.0

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Avian flu outbreak at RSPB Minsmere

News Story 1
 RSPB Minsmere nature reserve in Suffolk has confirmed an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza on its site. The coastal nature reserve has seen an increase in dead birds recently, and has said that it is 'extremely concerned' about the potential impacts on bird populations, with 2021 and 2022 seeing the largest ever outbreak in the UK.

In a statement, RSPB said: "We appreciate that it is distressing, for both visitors and staff, to see dead or dying birds at our site but we ask that if visitors see any dead or unwell birds, they do not touch or go near them and that they report it to us at our Visitor Centre during its opening hours, or by emailing us on minsmere@rspb.org.uk outside of these times."  

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Moredun Foundation Award opens for applications

The 2022-2023 Moredun Foundation Award (MFA) is now open for members, with up to £2,000 available for successful applicants.

The MFA honours the contribution that education, teamwork, life experience, and travel have made to the understanding of cattle health and welfare. Through its charitable endeavours, Moredun offers its members the opportunity to pursue projects that support personal development.

The prize is open to a wide range of project applications, including those that include producing educational tools, conducting a small research project, or studying farming methods in other nations. For more information and to apply, visit moredun.org.uk