Mercury exposure in sedentary and migratory Charadrius plovers distributed widely across China

Tongping Su, Xin Lin, Qin Huang, Demeng Jiang, Chi Zhang, Xuecong Zhang, Caroline Dingle, Eben Goodale, Pinjia Que, Rui Wang, Yang Liu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Mercury pollution is a global problem and of particular concern in high emissions areas, such as China. We studied the migratory Kentish Plover, Charadrius alexandrinus, which breeds in coastal northern/central China and the inland Qinghai Lake, and the White-faced Plover C. dealbatus, a year-round resident of coastal southern China. We measured total mercury (THg) concentrations in feather and blood samples of breeding females. We expected low levels at the remote Qinghai Lake, but we found instead that feather THg concentrations were highest there (3.89 ± 1.53 [SD] μg/g DW [n = 34]; compared to 1.29 ± 0.61 μg/g of Kentish Plover elsewhere [n = 35] and 2.08 ± 1.45 μg/g for White-faced Plover [n = 56]), a result is consistent over 2 years. When including only coastal populations in the analysis, there were no differences in THg concentrations between the two species, although White-faced Plover had more variation. Feather THg concentrations for the coastal populations are similar to other studies on plovers and sandpipers globally, with most birds under the threshold of adverse effects (3 μg/g, an estimate that itself may be too low). Nevertheless, the Qinghai Kentish Plover population has mean feather concentrations above this threshold, indicating high exposure during the nonbreeding season, and some individuals have extreme values (e.g., a bird with a blood level of 7.63 μg/g DW from Zhanjiang, south China), so further research and monitoring are needed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4236-4245
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Science and Pollution Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Bioaccumulation
  • China
  • Kentish plover
  • Mercury concentration
  • Shorebirds
  • Stable isotopes
  • White-faced plover


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