Plastic and other anthropogenic debris in Arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus) faeces from Iceland

Birte Technau, Ester Rut Unnsteinsdóttir, Fokje L. Schaafsma, Susanne Kühn*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Anthropogenic debris, including plastic pollution, is a growing concern in the Arctic and negatively impacts both marine and coastal organisms. The aim of this study was to investigate the potential for using Arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus) faeces as a monitoring tool for plastic pollution in the Arctic environment. Arctic fox faeces were collected in different regions of Iceland and analysed for anthropogenic debris presence larger than 300 µm, and diet composition. In total, 235 faecal samples from 1999, 2017, 2018 and 2020 were analysed. The overall frequency of occurrence of plastic and other anthropogenic material was 5.11% and was found in samples across all regions and years. There were no statistical differences in anthropogenic debris ingested, depending on year or region. There were no obvious differences in diet composition between samples that contained anthropogenic debris and samples without. The suitability of Arctic fox faeces as a method to monitor plastic and anthropogenic debris levels in the Arctic environment remains debatable: Whilst the vast distribution range of the Arctic fox and the non-invasive collection methodology of faecal samples could be utilised as a good monitoring tool, the overall low uptake and unclear source of plastic and anthropogenic debris (marine or terrestrial) makes the interpretation of the data difficult. Nevertheless, debris ingestion by Arctic foxes remains a concern and warrants further studies
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1403-1413
JournalPolar Biology
Issue number8
Early online date21 Aug 2022
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2022


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