Osprey Distribution, Abundance, Reproductive Success and Contaminant Burdens Along Lower Columbia River, 1997/1998 Versus 2004

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Abstract

The osprey (Pandion haliaetus) population nesting along the lower portion of the Columbia River (river mile 29 to 286) increased from 94 in 1997 to 103 occupied nests in 1998 (9.6% annual rate of increase) to 225 occupied nests in 2004 (13.9% annual rate of increase). The more recent rate of population increase was associated with higher reproductive rates than in 1997/1998, and significantly lower egg concentrations of most organochlorine (OC) pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDDs) and polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDFs). A comparison of observed egg residue concentrations in 2004 with effect-level information for ospreys indicated that reproduction at few, if any, nests was adversely affected. As recent as 1997/1998, dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (DDE) was still adversely affecting reproductive success for a portion of this population. Mercury was the only contaminant evaluated in both 1997/1998 and 2004 that showed a significant increase in eggs over time, but concentrations in 2004 (0.09 μg g−1 ww) remained below established effect levels for birds (generally reported at 0.50 μg g−1 ww or higher). The significant increase in mercury justifies the need for future monitoring. All contaminants mentioned that biomagnify up food chains can be effectively monitored in osprey eggs. The osprey has been shown to be an excellent sentinel species for long-term monitoring with their many useful traits described.