The black guillemot Cepphus grylle has been identified as a species likely to interact with marine renewable energy devices, specifically tidal turbines, with the potential to experience negative impacts. This likelihood is primarily based on the species being a diving seabird, and an inshore, benthic forager often associating with tidal streams. These behavioural properties may bring them into contact with turbine blades, or make them susceptible to alterations to tidal current speed, and/or changes in benthic habitat structure. We examine the knowledge currently available to assess the potential impacts of tidal stream turbines on black guillemot ecology, highlight knowledge gaps and make recommendations for future research. The key ecological aspects investigated include: foraging movements, diving behaviour, seasonal distribution, other sources of disturbance and colony recovery. Relating to foraging behaviour, between studies there is heterogeneity in black guillemot habitat use in relation to season, tide, diurnal cycles, and bathymetry. Currently, there is also little knowledge regarding the benthic habitats associated with foraging. With respect to diving behaviour, there is currently no available research regarding how black guillemots orientate and manoeuvre within the water column. Black guillemots are considered to be a non-migratory species, however little is known about their winter foraging range and habitat. The effect of human disturbance on breeding habitat and the metapopulation responses to potential mortalities are unknown. It is clear further understanding of black guillemot foraging habitat and behaviour is needed to provide renewable energy developers with the knowledge to sustainably locate tidal turbines and mitigate their impacts.
Mandt’s black guillemot (Cepphus grylle mandtii) is one of the few seabirds associated in all seasons with Arctic sea ice, a habitat that is changing rapidly. Recent decreases in summer ice have reduced breeding success and colony size of this species in Arctic Alaska. Little is known about the species' movements and distribution during the nine month non-breeding period (September-May), when changes in sea ice extent and composition are also occurring and predicted to continue. To examine bird movements and the seasonal role of sea ice to non-breeding Mandt’s black guillemots, we deployed and recovered (n = 45) geolocators on individuals at a breeding colony in Arctic Alaska during 2011-2015. Black guillemots moved north to the marginal ice zone (MIZ) in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas immediately after breeding, moved south to the Bering Sea during freeze-up in December, and wintered in the Bering Sea January-April. Most birds occupied the MIZ in regions averaging 30-60% sea ice concentration, with little seasonal variation. Birds regularly roosted on ice in all seasons averaging 5 h d(-1), primarily at night. By using the MIZ, with its roosting opportunities and associated prey, black guillemots can remain in the Arctic during winter when littoral waters are completely covered by ice.
The octa- and nonachlorinated bornanes (toxaphene) CHBs 26, 40, 41, 44, 50 and 62 were analysed in Arctic char (Salvelinus alpinus), shorthorn sculpin (Myoxocephalus scorpius), ringed seal (Pusa hispida) and black guillemot eggs (Cepphus grylle) from Greenland. Despite their high trophic level, ringed seals had the lowest concentrations of these species, with a Σ6Toxaphene median concentration of 13-20ng/g lipid weight (lw), suggesting metabolisation. The congener composition also suggests transformation of nona- to octachlorinated congeners. Black guillemot eggs had the highest concentrations (Σ6Toxaphene median concentration of 971ng/g lw). Although concentrations were higher in East than in West Greenland differences were smaller than for other persistent organic pollutants. In a circumpolar context, toxaphene had the highest concentrations in the Canadian Arctic. Time trend analyses showed significant decreases for black guillemot eggs and juvenile ringed seals, with annual rates of -5 to -7% for Σ6Toxaphene. The decreases were generally steepest for CHBs 40, 41 and 44.
In addition to monitoring trends in plastic pollution, multi-species surveys are needed to fully understand the pervasiveness of plastic ingestion. We examined the stomach contents of 20 bird species collected from the coastal waters of the eastern North Pacific, a region known to have high levels of plastic pollution. We observed no evidence of plastic ingestion in Rhinoceros Auklet, Marbled Murrelet, Ancient Murrelet or Pigeon Guillemot, and low levels in Common Murre (2.7% incidence rate). Small sample sizes limit our ability to draw conclusions about population level trends for the remaining fifteen species, though evidence of plastic ingestion was found in Glaucous-Winged Gull and Sooty Shearwater. Documenting levels of plastic ingestion in a wide array of species is necessary to gain a comprehensive understanding about the impacts of plastic pollution. We propose that those working with bird carcasses follow standard protocols to assess the levels of plastic ingestion whenever possible.
Although the presence and distribution of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in Arctic marine environments has been well documented, the implications for the health of biota are poorly understood. In the present study, multiple lines of evidence, including site-specific effects data, were used to assess PCB-related risks to marine biota at a contaminated military site in Saglek Bay, Labrador, Canada, from 1997 to 1999. Risks were evaluated for three components of the ecosystem: benthic invertebrates, a bottom-feeding fish (shorthorn sculpin, Myoxocephalus scorpius), and a diving seabird (black guillemot, Cepphus grylle). Average sediment PCB concentrations exceeded the Canadian interim sediment quality guideline level by 41-fold. However, sediment toxicity testing and a benthic community survey showed no evidence of adverse effects. In contrast, shorthorn sculpin and black guillemot PCB exposures (measured as sum of congeners) were elevated enough to pose risks to survival or reproduction. Based on the collective evidence, we estimated that risks were posed by sediment PCB concentrations greater than 77 ng/g dry weight for black guillemots and 750 ng/g dry weight for shorthorn sculpins. The present study, along with two parallel studies, provided information to support the management decisions concerning potential remedial action on the contaminated sediments. This ecological risk assessment describes the steps and rationale taken to evaluate the risk posed by an area of PCB-contaminated marine sediments in an otherwise relatively pristine northern coastal environment. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. © 2012 SETAC.