Inorganic Contaminant Concentrations and Body Condition of Common Goldeneye Wintering on the Great Salt Lake, Utah

Project Number: 94
Year Funded: 2007
Lead Institution(s): Utah State University
Project Lead: Josh Vest
Collaborator(s): Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Great Salt Lake Ecosystem Project, Utah Division of Water Quality, Utah Verinary Diagnostic Library, Utah State University
Location: Utah
Focal Species: Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula)
Project Description: The Great Salt Lake (GSL) is the fourth largest terminal lake in the world and is an important region for breeding and migratory waterbirds and wintering common goldeneye (Aldrich and Paul 2002, J. Vest unpublished data). Because the GSL is a closed basin, contaminants (e.g., mercury, selenium, cadmium, and others) associated with industrial and urban development in the Salt Lake Valley or from non-local sources (e.g., atmospheric deposition) may accumulate in the GSL system (Waddell 1998, Brix et al. 2004, Naftz et al. 2005). Recently, water and sediment samples from the GSL revealed high concentrations of mercury and selenium and methylmercury concentrations in GSL water samples were among the highest ever recorded in surface water by the USGS Mercury Laboratory (Waddell 1998, Naftz et al. 2005). Thus, GSL waterfowl are likely exposed to these contaminants and elevated contaminant concentrations may adversely affect survival and reproduction in waterfowl (reviewed in Takekawa et al. 2002). Indeed, mercury concentrations identified in a 2005 reconnaissance investigation were the highest among published results for common goldeneye (Gerstenberger et al. 2004, Vest et al. 2006). Although the continental population of common goldeneye are relatively stable compared to other North American sea duck populations (e.g., eider and scoter spp.), insight into relationships between trace elements and goldeneye body condition will be useful in understanding potential impacts of trace elements and contaminants for other sea duck populations. Determining trace element concentrations in common goldeneye wintering on GSL presents a potentially unique opportunity to understand physiological relationships with high contaminant concentrations (e.g., mercury) in a population of wild migratory sea ducks.
Project Reports:
Inorganic Contaminant Concentrations and Body Condition of Common Goldeneye Wintering on the Great Salt Lake, Utah