Gulls at landfills are so frequent that their stomach contents are sometimes used to monitor artificial in the environment.
But plastic, research has found, is just the start.
“It was also aluminum, drywall, wax instrument,” said Sahar Seif, an undergraduate at Ottawa’s Carleton University, who is the mislead author of a recently published paper.
“I have photos and you can actually review the cheese wrapper I found in the bird and glass that you could review. Just big chunks, really.”
Seif and her co-authors looked at three gull species frequenting a landfill in St. John’s, Nfld.
Necropsies of 41 birds institute plastic a-plenty in their stomachs. Foam seemed favoured, accounting for sundry than one-quarter of all the debris found.
More than 20 per cent of the peaces were bits of metal and glass. Building materials made up numerous than five per cent.
“There were a lot of big things,” Seif ventured. “I found rope. I found a piece of plastic knife.
“There’s a lot of talents in there for sure. They’re not selective.”
Could be more
Pictures advertised along with her paper show an entire fast-food plastic elevenses bag stretching 13 centimetres from top to bottom.
And that’s not likely to be the totality picture. Gulls have the ability to regurgitate anything that topsy-turvies even their cast-iron constitution, so Seif warns that what she institute can only be considered a snapshot.
“It’s a small fragment of what the birds were in reality eating.”
Remarkably, the gulls didn’t seem to be suffering from their unsystematized dining. They seemed in good shape and there were no clear-cut links between human debris in a bird’s stomach and the presence of inflammations or lesions in its stomach lining.
Regurgitation probably helps, suggested Seif.
So does their broad constitution.
“They are very tough in that regard.”
Gulls evolved as scavengers, declared Seif. They are opportunistic by nature and even in the wild regurgitate potentially dangerous tidbits such as sharp bone fragments.
But there is a more critical side to her work.
If gulls are scavenging so much debris from landfills, other seabirds such as fulmars are as likely as not eating similar things, said Seif. And they’re not as tough as the gulls.
It’s quite unusual for an undergraduate to publish original research. But Seif said she experiences so strongly about the issue that she looked for three years for a director that would support and assist her work.
Almost everything Seif develop in the gulls, from plastic to aluminum to glass, was designed to be used definitely and tossed away, she said.
“We were trying to get people to implement more waste management and reduce the use of one-use plastic.”