Heavy metal and arsenic content in seabirds affected by the Prestige oil spill on the Galician coast (NW Spain)

Pérez-López, M., Cid, F., Oropesa, A.L., Fidalgo, L.E., Beceiro, A.L. & Soler, F., 2006. Heavy metal and arsenic content in seabirds affected by the Prestige oil spill on the Galician coast (NW Spain). Science of the total environment, 359(1), pp.209-220.

Seabirds are top consumers in marine foodchains which offer opportunities to detect and assess the toxicological effects of different inorganic elements on the marine ecosystem. In order to provide baseline data concerning trace element levels in seabird species from NW Spain, zinc, copper, arsenic, chromium, lead, cadmium and mercury concentrations were analyzed in liver of three different seabird species (common guillemot, Atlantic puffin and razorbill) affected by the Prestige oil spill in September 2002 on the Galician coast. In general, with the exception of mercury, levels of all the analyzed elements were similar or lower in comparison with those reported for the same species in other Atlantic areas, and did not exceed levels indicative of increased environmental exposure.

Effects of nesting yellow-legged gulls (Larus cachinnans Pallas) on the heavy metal content of soils in the Cies Islands (Galicia, North-west Spain)

Otero Pérez, X. L. Effects of nesting yellow-legged gulls (Larus cachinnans Pallas) on the heavy metal content of soils in the Cies Islands (Galicia, North-west Spain). Marine Pollution Bulletin 36, 267–272 (1998).


Cd, Cr, Cu, Pb and Zn levels were determined in faeces of the yellow-legged gull Larus cachinnans in Galicia (NW Spain), and in soils from three breeding and one reference site. The levels of Cd, Cu, Zn and Pb in the soil were significantly higher at the site with highest gull density and with the longest history of use as a breeding site (Percha) than at the reference site. Zn levels were higher than levels of the other metals in all soil and faeces samples. Mean levels of metals in faeces were 305 mg kg-1 (Zn), 60 mg kg-1 (Cu), 40 mg kg-1 (Pb), 9.8 mg kg-1 (Cr) and 5.8 mg kg-1 (Cd).

Seabird feathers as monitors of the levels and persistence of heavy metal pollution after the Prestige oil spill

Moreno, R., Jover, L., Diez, C. & Sanpera, C. Seabird feathers as monitors of the levels and persistence of heavy metal pollution after the Prestige oil spill. Environmental pollution 159, 2454–2460 (2011).


We measured heavy metal concentrations in yellow-legged gulls (n=196) and European shags (n=189) in order to assess the temporal pattern of contaminant exposure following the Prestige oil spill in November 2002. We analysed Pb, Cu, Zn, Cr, Ni and V levels in chick feathers sampled at four colonies during seven post-spill years (2003-2009), and compared results with pre-spill levels obtained from feathers of juvenile shag corpses (grown in spring/summer 2002). Following the Prestige wreck, Cu (4.3-10 mg g-1) and Pb concentrations (1.0e1.4 mg g-1) were, respectively, between two and five times higher than prespill
levels (1.5-3.6 and 0.1-0.4 mg g-1), but returned to previous background concentrations after three years. Our study highlights the suitability of chick feathers of seabirds for assessing the impact of oil spills on heavy metal contamination, and provides the best evidence to date on the persistence of oil pollution after the Prestige incident.