, Volume 148, Issue 1-4, pp 185-204
Date: 14 Mar 2008

Environmental contaminants in Canadian shorebirds

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Abstract

Canadian shorebirds are exposed to environmental contaminants throughout their annual cycle. Contaminant exposure among species varies with diet, foraging behaviour and migration patterns. We sampled twelve species of shorebirds from four locations across Canada to assess their exposure to PCBs, organochlorine pesticides, as well as four trace elements (Hg, Se, Cd, As). ΣPCB and ΣDDT followed by ΣCHL were most frequently found above trace level in the shorebird carcasses. In general, the plover species (American golden, semipalmated, black-bellied) appear to be the most contaminated with organochlorines, whereas Hudsonian and marbled godwits appear to be the least contaminated. Among adult birds, the greater and lesser yellowlegs had the highest hepatic Hg concentrations (2.4–2.7 μg g−1 dw), whereas American golden plovers as well as Hudsonian and marbled godwits contained relatively low levels of Hg (<1 μg g−1 dw). Renal Se concentrations varied from 3.2 to 16.7 μg g−1 dw and exhibited little interspecific or seasonal variation. Renal Cd levels in adult birds were highest in Hudsonian godwits from Quill Lakes (43 μg g−1 dw) and Cape Churchill (12 μg g−1 dw), and lowest (0.8–1.5 μg g−1 dw) in greater and lesser yellowlegs from Cape Churchill and Bay of Fundy. Renal As concentrations varied from 0.06 μg g−1 dw in golden plovers from Cape Churchill to 4.6 and 5.1 μg g−1 dw in dunlin samples from the Pacific coast. There is no evidence that contaminants were adversely affecting the shorebirds sampled from the Canadian locations in this study.