University of Oulu

Lippold, A., Boltunov, A., Aars, J., Andersen, M., Blanchet, M.-A., Dietz, R., Eulaers, I., Morshina, T. N., Sevastyanov, V. S., Welker, J. M., & Routti, H. (2022). Spatial variation in mercury concentrations in polar bear (Ursus maritimus) hair from the Norwegian and Russian Arctic. Science of The Total Environment, 822, 153572.

Spatial variation in mercury concentrations in polar bear (Ursus maritimus) hair from the Norwegian and Russian Arctic

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Author: Lippold, Anna1; Boltunov, Andrei2; Aars, Jon1;
Organizations: 1Norwegian Polar Institute, Fram Centre, Tromsø 9296, Norway
2Marine Mammal Research and Expedition Centre, 36 Nahimovskiy pr., Moscow 117997, Russia
3UiT The Arctic University of Norway, Tromsø 9019, Norway
4Aarhus University, Institute of Ecoscience, Arctic Research Centre, Roskilde 4000, Denmark
5Research and Production Association “Typhoon”, 249038 Obninsk, Kaluga Region, Russia
6Vernadsky Institute of Geochemistry and Analytical Chemistry RAS, Moscow 119991, Russia
7University of Alaska Anchorage, Anchorage 99508, United States
8University of Oulu, Oulu 90014, Finland
9University of the Arctic, Rovaniemi 96460, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 2.5 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Elsevier, 2022
Publish Date: 2022-06-22


We examined spatial variation in total mercury (THg) concentrations in 100 hair samples collected between 2008 and 2016 from 87 polar bears (Ursus maritimus) from the Norwegian (Svalbard Archipelago, western Barents Sea) and Russian Arctic (Kara Sea, Laptev Sea, and Chukchi Sea). We used latitude and longitude of home range centroid for the Norwegian bears and capture position for the Russian bears to account for the locality. We additionally examined hair stable isotope values of carbon (δ¹³C) and nitrogen (δ¹⁵N) to investigate feeding habits and their possible effect on THg concentrations. Median THg levels in polar bears from the Norwegian Arctic (1.99 μg g⁻¹ dry weight) and the three Russian Arctic regions (1.33–1.75 μg g⁻¹ dry weight) constituted about 25–50% of levels typically reported for the Greenlandic or North American populations. Total Hg concentrations in the Norwegian bears increased with intake of marine and higher trophic prey, while δ¹³C and δ¹⁵N did not explain variation in THg concentrations in the Russian bears. Total Hg levels were higher in northwest compared to southeast Svalbard. δ¹³C and δ¹⁵N values did not show any spatial pattern in the Norwegian Arctic. Total Hg concentrations adjusted for feeding ecology showed similar spatial trends as the measured concentrations. In contrast, within the Russian Arctic, THg levels were rather uniformly distributed, whereas δ¹³C values increased towards the east and south. The results indicate that Hg exposure in Norwegian and Russian polar bears is at the lower end of the pan-Arctic spectrum, and its spatial variation in the Norwegian and Russian Arctic is not driven by the feeding ecology of polar bears.

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Series: Science of the total environment
ISSN: 0048-9697
ISSN-E: 1879-1026
ISSN-L: 0048-9697
Volume: 822
Article number: 153572
DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2022.153572
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
1172 Environmental sciences
Funding: The study was funded by the Ministry of Climate and Environment of Norway and the Norwegian Polar Institute. Additional funding for fieldwork was provided by the Centre for Ice, Climate and Environment (ICE) at the Norwegian Polar Institute and the World Wildlife Fund. The majority of samples from the Russian side were collected during contract work (Contractor – Arctic Research Centre LLC), whilst the remaining samples were obtained during other expeditions or as contributions from colleagues and partners. Funding for the Norwegian stable isotope analysis was provided by a NSF Major Research Infrastructure award to JMW (0953271) that established the UAA Stable Isotope Facility and provided the mass spectrometer used to determine hair δ13C and δ15N values. JMW has also been supported during this research and publication construction phase by a Fulbright Distinguished Arctic Chairship-Norway and his UArctic Research Chairship. None of the funding sources had influence on any part of this research.
Copyright information: © 2022 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (