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Apex predatory mammals as bioindicator species in environmental monitoring of elements in Dinaric Alps (Croatia)

Abstract

Tissue element investigations of apex terrestrial mammals are very scarce in Europe. We quantified 16 essential and nonessential elements in the kidney cortex, liver, and muscle tissue of 467 brown bears (Ursus arctos), 125 gray wolves (Canis lupus), one Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx), and three golden jackals (Canis aureus) from Croatia by inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS). Renal cadmium (0.6% of animals) and lead (1%) and hepatic lead (5%) were found in toxicologically relevant levels for mammals only in bears, while the other elements were within normal range. The association of age, sex, season, and region with measured tissue elements in bear and wolf was estimated by multiple regression analyses. Age-related accumulation of cadmium was observed in bears and wolves. Lead tissue content increased with the age of bears but declined in wolves. Female bears and wolves had higher arsenic, iron, and thallium than males in some tissues. Also, cadmium, mercury, copper, zinc, selenium, molybdenum, and uranium were more abundant only in female bears. Male bears had higher potassium, zinc, and magnesium, while male wolves had higher calcium in some tissues compared to female wolves. Seasonal differences were mainly observed for bears’ tissues and region-specific differences only in wolves. The bear kidneys had the highest levels of cobalt, copper, molybdenum, cadmium, and lead among the four studied species. The element levels reported for bears and wolves represent baseline values for the Dinaric population.

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Acknowledgements

The help of local hunters and experts in the collection of samples is gratefully acknowledged. The authors wish to thank Dr Z. Kljaković-Gašpić and anonymous reviewers for valuable comments on the manuscript and Mr Makso Herman for language editing.

Funding

This study was supported by the Ministry of Science, Education and Sports of the Republic of Croatia (grant no. 022-0222148-2135) and by the European Commission under the “HUNT” project of the 7th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (grant no. 212160). Neither the European Commission nor any person acting on behalf of the Commission is responsible for the use made of the information. The views expressed in this publication are the sole responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Commission. The Veterinary Faculty team was additionally supported by the Research Council of Norway under the project “The role of natural resources in sustainable rural livelihoods in the western Balkans. The distribution and flow of costs and benefits” (application no. ES459363).

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Correspondence to Maja Lazarus.

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Highlights

• This study is an assessment of inorganic contaminants in protected European apex mammals sharing biotope with humans.

• Cd and Pb increased with age of bears; Cd increased, but Pb declined with age of wolves.

• Majority of the elements were higher in female compared to male bears and wolves.

• Seasonal differences were noted for bears and regional differences for wolves.

• Bears had the highest Cd and Pb among the four species, and up to 5% of the population may be at risk of adverse health effects.

Responsible editor: Philippe Garrigues

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Lazarus, M., Sekovanić, A., Orct, T. et al. Apex predatory mammals as bioindicator species in environmental monitoring of elements in Dinaric Alps (Croatia). Environ Sci Pollut Res 24, 23977–23991 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-017-0008-0

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Keywords

  • Bear
  • Wolf
  • Lynx
  • Jackal
  • Trace elements
  • Croatia