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Blood concentrations of organochlorine compounds in an avian predator endemic to southern Africa: associations with habitat, electric transformers and diet

AuthorsGarcía-Heras, Marie-Sophie; Arroyo, Beatriz ; Simmons, Robert E.; Camarero, Pablo R. ; Mateo, Rafael ; Mougeot, François
Issue Date2017
CitationEnvironmental Pollution 232: 440-449 (2017)
AbstractPersistent pollutants such as organochlorine compounds (OCs) have been highlighted as a cause of population decline in apex predators, and understanding the patterns of OCs contamination can be crucial for the conservation of affected species. Despite the large number of studies, little is known on the threats to African raptor species. Here we report on OC concentrations in an endangered top-predator endemic to southern Africa, the Black Harrier Circus maurus. Blood samples were collected in 2012-2014 from wild nestlings (n=90) and adults (n=23) in south-western South Africa, a region where agriculture and urbanization have rapidly developed since the 1950s. Levels of polychlorinated biphenyl (ΣPCB) and dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (ΣDDT, for p,p’-DDT + p,p’-DDE) were detected in 79% and 84% of sampled individuals respectively, with varying concentrations among demographic groups. Nestlings had significantly higher ΣPCB and p,p’-DDT concentrations than adults, which in contrast presented higher levels of p,p’-DDE than nestlings. Levels of ΣPCB significantly increased with “Transformer Density Index”, an innovative index assessing number and power of electricity transformers around active nests, which we propose as a useful tool for assessing ΣPCB exposure in wildlife. Levels of p,p’-DDE significantly increased with the proportion of wetlands within the breeding territory. No association was found between OC levels and the protected areas status of nesting sites. Furthermore, p,p’-DDE levels significantly increased with higher percentage of bird biomass in an individual’s diet, confirming the intra-specific relation between diet composition and OCs contamination. Finally, we show that OCs had sub-lethal effects on indicators of health condition. White blood cell count increased with higher p,p’-DDT levels, showing a reaction by the immune system. The Heterophils: Lymphocytes ratio increased with higher ΣPCB levels, suggesting increased physiological stress and reduced immunity. We suggest that detection of OCs in Black Harriers highlight a current threat to other sympatric predators.
DescriptionTrabajo presentado al Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) Europe 27th Annual Meeting, celebrado en Bruselas (Bélgica) del 7 al 11 de mayo de 2017.
Publisher version (URL)https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envpol.2017.09.059
Appears in Collections:(IREC) Artículos
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