Distribution and potential significance of a gull fecal marker in urban coastal and riverine areas of southern Ontario, Canada
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To better understand the distribution of gull fecal contamination in urban areas of southern Ontario, we used gull-specific PCR and qPCR assays against 1309 water samples collected from 15 urban coastal and riverine locations during 2007. Approximately, 58% of the water samples tested positive for the gull-assay. Locations observed to have higher numbers of gulls and their fecal droppings had a higher frequency of occurrence of the gull marker and a higher gull marker qPCR signal than areas observed to be less impacted by gulls. Lower gull marker occurrence and lower qPCR signals were associated with municipal wastewater (7.4%) and urban stormwater effluents (29.5%). Overall, there were no statistically significant differences in gull marker occurrence at beach sites for pore water, ankle, and chest-depth samples, although signals were generally higher in interstitial beach sand pore water and ankle-depth water than in chest-depth water samples. Overall, the results indicated that gull fecal pollution is widespread in urban coastal and riverine areas in southern Ontario and that it significantly contributes to fecal indicator bacterial loads.
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