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Indices of stress and immune function in Arctic barnacle goslings (Branta leucopsis) were impacted by social isolation but not a contaminated grazing environment.

de Jong, M., Scheiber, I. B. R., Brink, N. W. V. D., Braun, A., Matson, K., Komdeur, J. & Loonen, M. J. J. E. 2017 In : Science of the Total Environment. 601-602, p. 132-141

Research output: Scientific - peer-reviewArticle

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  • Indices of stress and immune function in Arctic barnacle goslings ( Branta leucopsis ) were impacted by social isolation but not a contaminated grazing environment

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DOI

In many areas around the Arctic remains and spoil heaps of old mines can be found, which have been abandoned after their heydays. Runoff from tailings of these abandoned mines can directly contaminate the local environment with elevated concentrations of trace metals. Few studies have investigated the possible negative effects of contaminants on Arctic terrestrial animals that use these areas. Trace metals can accumulate in animals and this accumulation has been linked to negative effects on fitness. Both, the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and/or the immune system have been named as possible underlying causes for these observations. Free-living animals are often exposed to multiple stressors simultaneously, however, and this is often not considered
in studies on the effects of contaminants on animal physiology. Here, we performed a study on Spitsbergen (Svalbard) taking both potential effects of trace metal contamination and social stress into account. We investigated
experimentally effects of exposure to contaminants from a historic coal mine area on plasma corticosterone levels and on four innate immune parameters (haemolysis, haemagglutination, haptoglobin-like activity and nitric oxide) before and after social isolation in human-raised barnacle goslings (Branta leucopsis). Baseline corticosterone and immune parameters were not affected by mine-exposure. After social isolation, mine goslings tended to show decreased haemagglutination in comparison with control goslings, but we detected no difference in the other measures. Social isolation increased corticosterone and decreased haptoglobin-like activity in all goslings. Immunology and corticosterone levels of barnacle goslings thus seem unaffected, at least on the short term, by Arctic coal mining contamination.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)132-141
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Volume601-602
StatePublished - 2017

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