A Regional program on Gulls

Biodiversity conservation in the New Aquitaine Region

The objective of this project is to measure the combined effects of environmental contaminants and habitat degradation on the biodiversity of the Nouvelle Aquitaine Region. The models studied are birds, reptiles and amphibians present in the vineyard, cereal plain, bocage, wetlands, urban and coastal areas. Within this framework, ECOPHY is carrying out work on contaminants and their effects in four species of gulls breeding in the Lilleau des Niges National Reserve, Ile de Ré (CEBC – Ligue de Protection des Oiseaux (LPO) partnership). Our work in the Arctic, in the TAAFs and in French Guiana has provided valuable information on the state of contamination of overseas seabirds, but surprisingly, data for seabirds in mainland France are simply non-existent. One of the aims of the MULTISTRESS programme is therefore to help fill this knowledge gap. From blood samples we are looking for the presence of mercury and persistent organic pollutants. Among them, poly and perfluorinated substances (PFASs) are still widely used as surfactants in a multitude of manufactured and consumer products (personal care products, non-stick kitchen utensils, fire-fighting foams, waterproof clothing and carpets, stain-resistant paper and textiles). Certain agricultural pesticides (triazoles and neonicotinoids) are also sought after because gulls regularly use the fields for food. These levels are analysed using stable isotopes and telemetry (GPS tracking) to place them in a trophic ecology context. This work on gulls is carried out in close collaboration with the EPOC (University of Bordeaux) and LIENSs (University of La Rochelle) laboratories).

The first results show surprisingly high mercury contamination, particularly in sea gulls, whose levels sometimes exceed those observed in polar zones (albatrosses). Another surprise is the high contamination by PFAS of the gulls on the Ile de Ré, with levels equivalent to those observed in the glaucous gulls of Svalbard, which are nevertheless considered to be highly contaminated. These very first data on the state of contamination of seabirds in France are included in the national programme DCSMM: Mise en place d’un Plan d’Action pour le Milieu Marin (AFB), supported by the AFB.