Research: Coastal condors in danger from DDT, PCBs


A brand new examine has discovered contaminants that had been banned many years in the past are nonetheless imperiling critically endangered California Condors. The condors could also be at elevated threat for reproductive impairment as a result of they eat lifeless marine mammals alongside the California coast.

The analysis, led by San Diego State College (SDSU) and San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance (SDZWA) scientists, in collaboration with Centro de Investigación Científica y de Educación Superior de Ensenada and the Nationwide Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, discovered that marine mammals stranded on the California coast harbor comparatively excessive ranges of halogenated natural contaminants (HOCs). Researchers detected greater than 400 contaminants in samples taken from stranded marine mammals that California Condors might feed on.

On the California coast, the marine mammals had an estimated seven instances extra DDT and three.5 instances extra PCBs than their counterparts in Baja California, Mexico. Different lesser-studied compounds had been additionally detected. One group of those compounds was estimated to be 148 instances extra considerable in California marine mammals in comparison with these in Baja California.

The examine, revealed Could 17 within the journal Environmental Science & Expertise, additionally reveals that coastal condors have extra contaminants of their blood than inland condors, which lack a marine mammal weight loss program.

“This sort of broad survey of contaminants reveals us that the condors and the marine mammals have a mess of contaminants which have by no means actually been examined earlier than, particularly intimately,” defined corresponding creator Nathan Dodder, Ph.D., analytical chemist and analysis scientist within the College of Public Well being at SDSU and the SDSU Analysis Basis. “The non-targeted contaminant evaluation we used not solely identifies identified legacy contaminants however has the added benefit of figuring out novel contaminants, along with identified however less-examined contaminants that aren’t routinely screened.”

32 contaminants in coastal condors

A mean of 32 contaminants had been detected within the coastal condor blood samples, in comparison with solely eight within the inland condors. DDT and PCBs had been estimated to be seven instances and 40 instances extra considerable, respectively, in coastal condors than inland condors. The contaminant TCPM was considerable in coastal condors, however fully absent in inland condors. One other associated contaminant, TCPMOH, was about 56 instances extra considerable in coastal condors than inland condors.

“TCPM and TCPMOH are related to DDT however understudied by way of their abundance in marine wildlife and toxicity,” mentioned examine co-author Eunha Hoh, Ph.D., professor in SDSU’s College of Public Well being. “That is the primary analysis to search out these compounds within the California Condors.”

Regardless that HOCs had been banned many years in the past, they’re extremely proof against environmental degradation and proceed to build up in marine meals webs, with the potential to physiologically hurt marine life. Many of those compounds, equivalent to DDT and PCBs, are endocrine-disrupting chemical compounds, and there may be proof that coastal condors are experiencing eggshell thinning related to publicity to HOCs in scavenged marine mammal carcasses.

“The marine mammals within the Gulf of California presumably have much less DDT and different halogenated compounds as a result of there wasn’t a historic discharge or dumping off of the coast like we see in Southern California,” added co-author Margaret Stack, analysis specialist on the SDSU Analysis Basis. “Our examine highlights the worth of the Baja California web site as a result of it gives this habitat the place the meals might not have as many contaminants in it.”

Lead poisoning stays a serious menace

California Condors had been practically extinct just a few many years in the past and their inhabitants has been slowly recovering due to in depth breeding and reintroduction efforts. Lead poisoning stays the first reason for loss of life for inland California Condors because of ingesting fragments from land animals shot with lead ammunition. Coastal habitats seemingly current decrease threat of publicity to steer due to the supply of marine mammal carcasses for condors to eat, making coastal websites advantageous for condor reintroduction. However previous contaminants discovered within the marine mammal carcasses might pose a renewed menace to the uncommon birds.

“The objective of the restoration program is to have condors all through their historic vary, which begins within the Pacific Northwest and ends in Baja California,” mentioned co-author Ignacio (Nacho) Vilchis, Ph.D., affiliate director of restoration ecology at SDZWA. “Each web site goes to have its professionals and cons. One of many professionals to the Baja web site is the supply of a meals supply that isn’t as contaminated as it’s in California.”

Along with much less publicity to HOCs in Baja, no condors there have died from lead poisoning within the final 5 years, in comparison with 19 condors in California. The analysis, funded by NOAA, California Sea Grant, and San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, highlights the worth of Baja California, Mexico as a reintroduction web site for condors.

“These findings will help inform administration of the Baja flock because it continues to develop,” famous co-author Christopher Tubbs, Ph.D., affiliate director of reproductive sciences at SDZWA. “A number of the contaminants current in marine mammal samples that we collected are ‘unknown’ by way of their construction and potential to disrupt hormone perform. This examine completely checked out one hormone pathway, estrogen, however lots of the contaminants recognized are well-known to intervene with a number of hormone pathways. These warrant additional examine.”

Due to the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance for offering this information.

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