Environmental Monitoring and Assessment

, Volume 185, Issue 11, pp 9043–9053 | Cite as

Dredging and contaminant exposure to tree swallows nesting on the upper Mississippi River

  • Thomas W. Custer
  • Paul M. Dummer
  • Christine M. Custer
  • David Warburton


In 2008 and 2009, dredge material from the Mississippi River in Pool 8 south of Brownsville, Minnesota was used to construct nearby islands. Chemical analysis of sediment in 2001 and 2002 in the area to be dredged indicated detectable concentrations of organic and inorganic contaminants. Tree swallows (Tachycineta bicolor), whose diet is mainly aquatic invertebrates, were used to evaluate contaminant exposure in both the dredged and newly created habitat. Organic and inorganic contaminant data were collected from tree swallows in 2007 through 2010 at one study site near the dredging operation, a reference study site upriver from the dredging activity, one study site down river from the dredging activity, and one study site on a newly created island (2009 and 2010 only). Organic and element concentrations were at background levels in all samples. Polychlorinated biphenyl and p,p′-dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene concentrations in tree swallow nestlings decreased at all study sites over the period 2007 to 2010 including the island study site between 2009 and 2010. Element concentrations in tree swallow livers for the non-island study sites did not show a trend among years in relation to the dredging. Selenium concentrations at the newly created island were higher and cadmium concentrations were lower in 2010 than 2009. Hatching success of eggs in successful nests was not associated with dredging activities.


Dredging Elements PCBs Mercury Tree swallows Mississippi River 



We thank Dwayne Houdek for logistical assistance; Pete Boma, Jennifer Herner-Thogmartin, and Max Weber for field assistance; the Iowa, Chicago and Eastern Railroad for permission to work on their property; and the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge for permission to work on their property. This study was funded through On-Refuge Contaminants Investigations of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Any use of trade, product, or firm names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the US Government.

Supplementary material

10661_2013_3234_MOESM1_ESM.doc (164 kb)
ESM 1 (DOC 164 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht (outside the USA) 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas W. Custer
    • 1
  • Paul M. Dummer
    • 1
  • Christine M. Custer
    • 1
  • David Warburton
    • 2
  1. 1.US Geological SurveyUpper Midwest Environmental Sciences CenterLa CrosseUSA
  2. 2.US Fish and Wildlife ServiceBloomingtonUSA

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