Skip Links

USGS - science for a changing world

Open-File Report 2015–1020

Prepared in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Mercury and Selenium Contamination in Waterbird Eggs and Risk to Avian Reproduction at Great Salt Lake, Utah

By Joshua T. Ackerman, Mark P. Herzog, C. Alex Hartman, John Isanhart, Garth Herring, Sharon Vaughn, John F. Cavitt, Collin A. Eagles-Smith, Howard Browers, Chris Cline, and Josh Vest

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (15.5 MB)Executive Summary

The wetlands of the Great Salt Lake ecosystem are recognized regionally, nationally, and hemispherically for their importance as breeding, wintering, and migratory habitat for diverse groups of waterbirds. Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge is the largest freshwater component of the Great Salt Lake ecosystem and provides critical breeding habitat for more than 60 bird species. However, the Great Salt Lake ecosystem also has a history of both mercury and selenium contamination, and this pollution could reduce the health and reproductive success of waterbirds. The overall objective of this study was to evaluate the risk of mercury and selenium contamination to birds breeding within Great Salt Lake, especially at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, and to identify the waterbird species and areas at greatest risk to contamination. We sampled eggs from 33 species of birds breeding within wetlands of Great Salt Lake during 2010 ̶ 2012 and focused on American avocets (Recurvirostra americana), black-necked stilts (Himantopus mexicanus), Forster’s terns (Sterna forsteri), white-faced ibis (Plegadis chihi), and marsh wrens (Cistothorus palustris) for additional studies of the effects of contaminants on reproduction.

First posted February 2, 2015

For additional information, contact:
Director, Western Ecological Research Center
U.S. Geological Survey
3020 State University Drive East
Sacramento, California 95819

Part or all of this report is presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). For best results viewing and printing PDF documents, it is recommended that you download the documents to your computer and open them with Adobe Reader. PDF documents opened from your browser may not display or print as intended. Download the latest version of Adobe Reader, free of charge. More information about viewing, downloading, and printing report files can be found here.

Suggested citation:

Ackerman, J.T., Herzog, M.P., Hartman, C.A., Isanhart, J., Herring, G., Vaughn, S., Cavitt, J.F., Eagles-Smith, C.A., Browers, H., Cline, C., and Vest, J., 2015, Mercury and selenium contamination in waterbird eggs and risk to avian reproduction at Great Salt Lake, Utah: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2015-1020, 164 p.,

ISSN 2331-1258 (online)



Executive Summary




Results and Discussion

Conclusions and Management Implications

References Cited

Appendix A. Maps showing total mercury concentrations (THg; μg/g fww) in eggs of 33 species of birds breeding in Great Salt Lake, Utah, 2010 ̶ 2012

Appendix B. Hot spot maps showing total mercury concentrations (THg; μg/g fww) in eggs of 11 species of birds breeding in Great Salt Lake, Utah, 2010 ̶ 2012

Appendix C. Maps showing selenium concentrations (Se; μg/g fww) in eggs of 32 species of birds breeding in Great Salt Lake, Utah, 2010 ̶ 2011

Accessibility FOIA Privacy Policies and Notices logo U.S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey
Page Contact Information: Contact USGS
Page Last Modified: Wednesday, December 07, 2016, 09:40:12 PM