Chlorinated Hydrocarbons and Biomarkers of Exposure in Wading Birds and Fish of the Lower Rio Grande Valley, Texas
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During 1997 we evaluated reproductive success in colonial water birds nesting in the Lower Rio Grande Valley (LRGV), Texas, and correlated success with concentrations of contaminants in eggs. We also measured steroid hormones and gonadosomatic index (GSI) as biomarkers of endocrine effects in common carp (Cyprinus carpio). Nest and fledging success of green herons (Butorides virescens) and great egrets (Ardea alba) were similar to those found in other parts of North America; however, nesting success of black-crowned night-herons (Nycticorax nycticorax) was lower, very likely due to flooding of the nesting area. Except for DDE and toxaphene, all chlorinated pesticides in bird eggs were low and not of concern for negative effects on any of the three species. DDE was highest in green heron eggs and seemed to increase along a geographic gradient from west to east, with eggs from Falcon Reservoir containing low concentrations, and those at Los Indios containing the highest concentrations (approx. 11,000 ng/g WW), near or above the threshold for reproductive impairment. DDE levels in great egrets and black-crowned night-herons were below those that are associated with reproductive impairment. Mean DDE levels in carp at the JAS Farms site were above the threshold level suggested for predator protection. Toxaphene was detected in about 20% of the samples with high levels observed in green heron eggs from Los Indios (mean = 4,402 ng/g WW). These are the highest toxaphene levels reported in bird eggs in the LRGV. Toxaphene levels in fish ranged between 90 and 312 ng/g WW. In general, PCBs in bird eggs and fish tissue were low and at levels not of concern for reproductive effects. The greatest concentrations of testosterone and 11-ketotestosterone were detected in fish from the JAS Farms site, which also had the greatest concentrations of DDE. Increased androgen production and gonad development in fish at this site, relative to Pharr, could be possibly associated with endocrine disrupting effects of p,p'-DDE. DDE, toxaphene, PCBs, and hormones were highest in birds and fish from the eastern edge of the study area.
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