Mercury, viruses and seabirds of French Guiana
High mercury contamination
The SENTINEL program focuses on the mercury contamination of several species of seabirds nesting in the Great Constable Nature Reserve. Indeed, French Guiana is characterised by old soils whose mercury concentrations are on average 5 times higher than those of temperate soils, and by a gold mining activity using this element for gold extraction, an activity that has released several hundred tonnes of this metal into the environment since the beginning of the 20th century. Stable isotopes (C and N) are also measured in order to place the search for contaminants in a trophic ecology context. Adults and chicks of six species of seabirds were sampled.
Massive mortality in frigate chicks and herpes viruses
In collaboration with the Pasteur Institute, the SENTINEL program has been looking at the mechanisms involved in the mass mortalities seen in frigate chicks. The disease is characterized by the appearance of visible clinical signs (skin crusts) that spread rapidly throughout the body, progressive weakening and, in the vast majority of cases, death of the chick. This disease is associated with a herpes virus, which is specific to super frigate birds.