Birds are widely used to assess metal contamination in the environment and there are different approaches to determine the exposure level in individuals, some being destructive (collection of soft tissues) and some non-destructive (blood, feathers and excrement). The use of blood to detect internal concentrations of metals is an acknowledged method, but to what extent blood can predict the concentrations in soft tissues has been less well evaluated in wild terrestrial birds. The same is true for excrements. This study compares the non-destructive methods using blood and excrement with liver sampling, with respect to exposure and accumulation of the elements arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead and zinc in nestling pied flycatchers (Ficedula hypoleuca). Blood, liver and excrement reflected the environmental exposure of non-essential elements and were independent of nestling sex. There were asymptotic relationships between the concentration of arsenic, cadmium and lead in liver and blood, excrement and liver, and excrement and blood, but none for copper or zinc. Those relationships were generally stronger between liver and blood than between excrements and internal concentrations. Lead had the strongest associations for all matrixes. The conclusion is that blood is an appropriate tool to assess accumulation of arsenic, cadmium and especially lead, but that blood can underestimate the accumulation at highly contaminated sites. Excrement can also give an indication of metal accumulation, but may overestimate internal concentrations at high exposure, and individual variability makes direct comparisons between these matrices less appropriate.
Environmental Pollution – Elsevier
Published: Feb 1, 2018
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