Mercury concentrations in tidal marsh sparrows and their use as bioindicators in Delaware Bay, USA
- First Online:
- 118 Downloads
Mercury (Hg) contamination from industrial sources is pervasive throughout North America and is recognized by the US Environmental Protection Agency as a health hazard for wildlife and humans. Avian species are commonly used as bioindicators of Hg because they are sensitive to contaminants in the environment and are relatively easy to sample. However, it is important to select the appropriate avian species to use as a bioindicator, which should be directly related to the project objectives. In this study, we tested the utility of two tidal marsh sparrows, Seaside (Ammodramus maritimus) and Saltmarsh (Ammodramus caudacutus) sparrows, as bioindicator species of the extent of Hg contamination in tidal marshes along the Delaware Bay. To determine the possibility of using one or both of these species, we estimated sparrow blood Hg burden in five Delaware watersheds. We found no difference in Hg concentrations between species (F1,133 < 0.01, P = 0.99), but Saltmarsh Sparrows had limited sample size from each site and were, therefore, not appropriate for a Delaware Bay-wide Hg indicator. Seaside Sparrows, however, were abundant and relatively easy to sample in the five watersheds. Seaside Sparrow blood Hg levels ranged from 0.15 to 2.12 ppm, differed among drainages, and were greatest in two drainages distant from the Delaware Bay shoreline (F4,95 = 2.51, P = 0.05). Based on a power analysis for Seaside Sparrow blood Hg, we estimated that 16 samples would be necessary to detect differences among sites. Based on these data, we propose that Seaside Sparrows may be used as a tidal marsh Hg bioindicator species given their habitat specificity, relative abundance, widespread distribution in marsh habitats, ease of sampling, and limited variation in blood Hg estimates within a sampling area. In Delaware Bay, Saltmarsh Sparrows may be too rare (making them difficult to sample) to be a viable tidal marsh Hg bioindicator.
KeywordsAmmodramus Bioindicators Delaware Bay Mercury Tidal Marsh
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.
- Austin, L. O. Jr. (1983). The seaside sparrow assemblage: A review of its history and biology. In T. L. Quay, J. B. Funderburg, D. S. Lee Jr., E. F. Potter, & C. S. Robbins (Eds.), The seaside sparrow, its biology and management (pp. 13–17). Raleigh: North Carolina State Biological Surveys.Google Scholar
- Barr, J. F. (1973). Feeding biology of common loon (Gavis immer) in oligotrophic lakes of the Canadian Shield. PhD. Thesis, University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada.Google Scholar
- Bignal, E., & Curtis, D. J. (1989). Choughs and land-use in Europe. Scottish Chough Study Group, Argyll.Google Scholar
- Burger, J. (1993). Metals in avian feathers: Bioindicators of environmental pollution. Review of Environmental Toxicology, 5, 203–311.Google Scholar
- Burgess, N. M. (2005). Mercury in biota and its effects. In M. B. Parsons, & J. B. Pervical (Eds.), Mercury, sources, measurements, cycles, and effects (pp. 235–258). Ottawa: Mineral Association of Canada.Google Scholar
- Compeau, G. C., & Bartha, R. (1985). Sulfate-reducing bacteria: Principal methylators of mercury in anoxic estuarine sediment. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 50, 498–502.Google Scholar
- Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control [DNREC] (2002). Delaware toxics release inventory report. <http://www.serc.delaware.gov/reports.shtml>. Accessed 18 Nov 2008.
- Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control [DNREC] (2008). <http://www.fw.delaware.gov/Fisheries/Pages/Advisories.aspx>. Accessed 15 Oct 2008.
- Eagles-Smith, C. A., Ackerman, J. T., Adelsbach, T. L., Takekawa, J. Y., Miles, A. K., & Keister, R. A. (2008). Mercury correlations among six tissues for four waterbird species breeding in San Francisco Bay, California, USA. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, 27, 2136–2153.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Elzinga, C. L., Salzer, D. W., Willoughby, J. W., & Gibbs, J. P. (2006). Monitoring plant and animal populations. Malden: Blackwell.Google Scholar
- Evers, D. C., & Duron, M. (2006). Developing an exposure profile for mercury in breeding birds of New York and Pennsylvania, 2005. Report BRI 2006-11 submitted to The Nature Conservancy. BioDiversity Research Institute, Gorham, ME.Google Scholar
- Furness, R. W., & Greenwood, J. D. (1993). Birds as monitors of environmental change. London: Chapman & Hall.Google Scholar
- Golden, N. H., & Rattner, B. A. (2003). Ranking terrestrial vertebrate species for utility in biomonitoring and vulnerability to environmental contaminants. Review of Environmental Contaminant Toxicology, 176, 67–136.Google Scholar
- Greenlaw, J. S. (1992). Seaside sparrow, Ammodramus maritimus. In K. J. Schneider, & D. M. Pence (Eds.), Migratory nongame birds of management concern in the northeast (pp. 211–232). Newton Corner: US Fish and Wildlife Service.Google Scholar
- Greenlaw, J., & Rising, J. (1994). Sharp-tailed sparrow (Ammodramus caudacutus). In A. Pool (Ed.), The birds of North America online. Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online.Google Scholar
- Horne, M. T., Finley, N. J., & Sprenger, M. D. (1999). Polychlorinated biphenyl- and mercury-associated alterations on benthic invertebrate community structure in a contaminated salt marsh in southeast Georgia. Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, 37, 317–325.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Kingery, H. E. (1996). American Dipper (Cinclus mexicanus). In A. Poole (Ed.), The birds of North America online. Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online.Google Scholar
- National Academy of Sciences Committee on the Toxicological Effects of Methylmercury, Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology, National Research Council (2000). Toxicological effects of methylmercury. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.Google Scholar
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) (2001). Magnitude and extent of contaminate d sediment and toxicity in Delaware Bay. NOS ORCA 148 Technical Report. Centers for Coastal Monitoring and Assessment, National Centers for Coastal Ocean Sciences, Silver Spring, Maryland, USA.Google Scholar
- National Wildlife Federation (NWF) (2005). Mercury in the mid-atlantic: Are the states meeting the challenge. 2005 Mid Atlantic Mercury Report Card <http://www.nationalwildlifefederation.org/wildlife/pdfs/MercuryMidAtlantic.pdf> Accessed 18 Nov 2008.
- Novak, J. M., Gaines, K. F., Cumbee, J. C., Mills, J. L. Jr., Rodriguez-Navarro, A., & Romanek, C. S. (2006). The Clapper Rail as an indicator species of estuarine marsh health. Studies in Avian Biology, 32, 270–281.Google Scholar
- Ormerod, S. J., & Tyler, S. J. (1987). Dippers (Cinclus cinclus) and grey wagtails (Motacilla cinerea) as indicators of stream acidity in upland Wales. In A. W. Diamond, & F. L. Filion (Eds.), The value of birds (pp. 191–208). Cambridge: International Council of Bird Preservation, ICBP Technical Publication No. 6.Google Scholar
- Post, W., & Greenlaw, J. S. (1994). Seaside Sparrow (Ammodramus maritimus). In A. Poole (Ed.), The birds of North America Online. Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online.Google Scholar
- Post, W., & Greenlaw, J. S. (2006). Nestling diets of coexisting salt marsh sparrows: Opportunism in a food-rich environment. Estuaries and Coasts, 29, 765–775.Google Scholar
- Shriver, W. G., & Gibbs, J. P. (2004). Projected effects of sea-level rise on the population viability of Seaside Sparrows (Ammodramus maritimus). In H. R. Akcakaya, et al. (Eds.), Species conservation and management: Case studies. Oxford University Press: Oxford.Google Scholar
- SPSS (2008). Statistical software version 16.0 for windows. Chicago: SPSS.Google Scholar
- Taylor, D. L. (1983). Management of the Cape Sable Sparrow. In T. L. Quay, J. B. Funderburg, D. S. Lee Jr., E. F. Potter, & C. S. Robbins (Eds.), The Seaside Sparrow: Its biology and management (pp. 147–152). North Carolina Biological Survey Occasional Paper 1983–5.Google Scholar
- Tiner, R. W. (2001). Delaware’s wetlands: Status and recent trends. Hadley: US Fish and Wildlife Service.Google Scholar
- US Environmental Protection Agency (1997). Mercury study report to Congress. Washington, DC: USEPA. Executive Summary 1:1-98. EPA-452/R-97-003.Google Scholar
- US Environmental Protection Agency (1998). SW-846 Method 7473. Mercury in solids and solutions by thermal decomposition, amalgamation, and atomic absorption spectrophotometry. Washington, DC: USEPA.Google Scholar
- US Environmental Protection Agency (2000). Mercury research strategy. Technical report: EPA/600/R-00/073, United States Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and Development, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
- Walters, M. J. (1992). A shadow and a song: The struggle to save an endangered species. Post Hills: Chelsea Green.Google Scholar
- Werner, H. W. (1975). The biology of the Cape Sable sparrow. Report to USDI Fish and Wildlife Service Everglades National Park, Homestead.Google Scholar
- Westervelt, K., Largay, E., Coxe, R., McAvoy, W., Perles, S., Podniesinski, G., Sneddon, L., & Walz, S. K. (2006). A guide to the natural communities of the Delaware Estuary: Version 1. NatureServe. Arlington, Virginia. Retrieved from: http://www.delawareestuary.org/pdf/ScienceReportsbyPDEandDELEP/GuideNaturalComm_v1.pdf.
- Zar, J. H. (1999). Biostatistical analysis. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar