Biological monitors provide important information regarding temporal trends in levels of persistent organic pollutants. Correct interpretation of these trends is critical if we are to accurately assess our progress in eliminating these contaminants from the environment. In the Laurentian Great Lakes, polychlorinated biphenyl concentrations in herring gull eggs declined during the 1970s and early 1980s. By the mid-1980s, further declines were not as obvious. An exception to this trend was observed in eggs from Lake Erie. On that lake, egg PCB concentrations continued to decline rapidly during the 1980s/1990s. Evidence from stable isotope analysis indicated that temporal changes in the composition of the herring gull diet occurred on Lake Erie. In the eastern basin, declines in fish availability may have forced the gulls to incorporate a greater proportion of terrestrial food into their diets. Decreases in the proportion of fish in the gull diet would have resulted in reduced PCB exposure. This may be partially responsible for the continuing rapid rate of decline in egg PCB concentrations. This decline should be interpreted with caution. These trends may not be indicative of lake-wide declines in PCB bioavailability but only reflect changes in dietary exposure brought about by alterations in food web structure.

Additional Metadata
Persistent URL
Journal Environmental Science and Technology
Hebert, C.E, Hobson, K.A. (Keith A.), & Shutt, J.L. (J. Laird). (2000). Changes in food web structure affect rate of PCB decline in herring gull (Larus argentatus) eggs. Environmental Science and Technology, 34(9), 1609–1614. doi:10.1021/es990933z