PBDEs and legacy POPs in urban birds of prey partly explained by trophic level and carbon source

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Science of the Total Environment



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POPs, PBDEs, Raptor, Urban ecosystems, Stable isotopes, Predator


As urban sprawl and agricultural intensification continue to invade prime wildlife habitat, some animals, even apex predators, are managing to adapt to this new environment. Chemical pollution is one of many stressors that wildlife encounter in urban environments. Predators are particularly sensitive to persistent chemical pollutants because they feed at a high trophic level where such pollution is biomagnified. To examine levels of pollution in urban birds of prey in the Lower Mainland region of British Columbia, Canada, we analyzed persistent organic contaminants in adult birds found dead of trauma injury. The hepatic geometric mean concentration of sum polybrominated diphenyl ethers (∑PBDEs) in 13 Cooper's hawks (Accipiter cooperii) from Greater Vancouver was 1873 ng/g (lipid weight) with one bird reaching 197,000 ng/g lipid weight, the highest exposure reported to date for a wild bird. Concentrations of ∑PBDEs, ∑PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) and, surprisingly, cyclodiene insecticides were greatest in the urban environment while those of DDE (1,1-dichloroethylene bis[p-chlorophenyl) were highest in a region of intensive agriculture. The level of most chlorinated and brominated contaminants increased with trophic level (δ15N). The concentrations of some contaminants, PBDEs in particular, in these birds of prey may have some toxicological consequences. Apex predators in urban environments continue to be exposed to elevated concentrations of legacy pollutants as well as more recent brominated pollutants.