BALD EAGLES (HALIAEETUS LEUCOCEPHALUS) AS INDICATORS OF GREAT LAKES ECOSYSTEM HEALTH
Simon, Kendall Lyn
Bowerman, William W
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Environmental indicators have been proposed as a means to assess ecological integrity, monitoring both chemical and biological stressors. In this study, we used nestling bald eagles as indicators to quantify direct or indirect tertiary-level contaminant exposure. The spatial and temporal trends of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) congeners were evaluated in nestling plasma from 1999–2014. Two hexa-chlorinated congeners, PCB-138 and 153, were detected with the highest frequency and greatest concentrations throughout Michigan. Less-chlorinated congeners such as PCB-52 and 66 however, comprised a greater percentage of total PCB concentrations in nestlings proximate to urbanized areas, such as along the shorelines of Lake Erie. Toxic equivalents were greatest in the samples collected from nestlings located on Lake Erie, followed by the other Great Lakes spatial regions. Nestling plasma samples were also used to measure concentrations of the most heavily-used group of flame retardants, brominated diphenyl ethers (BDEs), and three groups of alternative flame retardants, non-BDE Brominated Flame Retardants (NBFRS), Dechloranes, and organophosphate esters (OPs). BDE-47, 99 and 100 contributed the greatest to total BDE concentrations. Concentrations of structurally similar NBFRs found in this study and recent atmospheric studies indicate that they are largely used as replacements to previously used BDE mixtures. A variety of Dechloranes, or derivatives of Mirex and Dechlorane Plus, were measured. Although, measured at lesser concentrations, environmental behavior of these compounds may be similar to mirex and warrant future research in aquatic species. Concentrations of OPs in nestling plasma were two to three orders of magnitude greater than all other groups of flame retardants. In addition to chemical indicators, bald eagles have also been proposed as indicators to identify ecological stressors using population measures that are tied to the fitness of individuals and populations. Using mortality as a population vitality rate, vehicle collisions were found to be the main source of mortality with a greater incidence for females during white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) hunting months and spring snow-melt. Lead poisoning was the second greatest source of mortality, with sources likely due to unretrieved hunter-killed, white-tailed deer carcasses, and possibly exacerbated by density-dependent effects due to the growing population in Michigan.