The Presence and Impact of Environmental Lead in Passerine Birds Along an Urban to Rural Land Use Gradient

Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, National Zoological Park, 3001 Connecticut Avenue, Washington, DC 20008, USA.
Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology (Impact Factor: 1.9). 09/2007; 53(2):261-8. DOI: 10.1007/s00244-006-0174-4
Source: PubMed


Contamination of wetlands by lead shot and lead fishing weights has generated a tremendous amount of research into the impact of lead poisoning on wildlife. Less well known are the potential threats to wildlife posed by lead contaminants still prevalent in urban environments. Despite a U.S. federal ban on lead-based paint and gasoline in 1978 and 1986, respectively, lead residue is still prevalent at hazardous levels in urban and suburban environments and may present a health concern for people and wildlife, particularly birds. We quantified soil lead content in residential properties across a rural-to-urban land-use gradient in the metropolitan Washington, D.C. area and then assessed the impact of lead contamination on body condition in adult and nestling passerine birds at the same sites. Soil lead concentration was significantly higher in urban sites compared to rural sites. Accordingly, adult and nestling birds captured in urban sites had significantly higher blood lead concentrations than their rural counterparts. However, only gray catbird nestlings exhibited lower body condition as a result of lead contamination. Birds continue to breed in urban habitats despite numerous negative attributes to these environments including light, noise, pedestrian and toxic contaminants, such as lead. These sites often contain habitat that appears suitable for roosting, nesting, and foraging and thus may act as an ecological trap for breeding birds because breeding success is often negatively associated with increasing urbanization. Lead contamination is one more feature of urbanization that birds and other wildlife must face in an increasingly developed world.

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Available from: Peter Marra, Jun 25, 2015
    • "Treatments consisted of water supplemented with lead (lead group; 1 ppm lead acetate; aviaries 1 and 5), zinc (zinc group; 10 ppm zinc sulphate; aviaries 2 and 7), lead and zinc (lead zinc group; 1 ppm lead acetate and 10 ppm zinc sulphate; aviaries 4 and 8), or control (control group; tap water with no metal added; aviaries 3 and 6). We chose these concentrations based on both lead blood concentrations measured in urban birds (ranging from 0.053 to 0.264 ppm; Roux and Marra 2007) and the gastrointestinal absorption rate of lead in zebra fi nches ( 10%) calculated from (Dauwe et al. 2002). Zinc concentrations were approximated using the zinc/lead concentration ratio in the environment and in bird feathers (on average, zinc was 10 times more concentrated than lead; Azimi et al. 2005, Frantz et al. 2012, Chatelain et al. 2014). "
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    ABSTRACT: Bacteria are fundamental associates of animals, and recent studies have highlighted their major role in host behaviour, immunity or reproductive investment. Thus, any environmental factor modifying bacterial community may affect host fitness. In birds, trace metals emitted by anthropogenic activities accumulate onto the plumage where they may alter bacterial community and ultimately affect bird fitness. Although trace metals are current major environmental issues in urban habitats, their effects on feather bacterial community have never been investigated. Here, we supplemented feral pigeons (Columba livia), an emblematic urban species, with zinc and/or lead in drinking and bath water. As expected, lead and zinc supplementations modified plumage bacterial community composition. Zinc decreased bacterial load, while lead decreased bacterial richness and the frequency of preening behaviour in birds, known to regulate feather bacteria. Our results demonstrate for the first time the effects of common urban trace metals on plumage bacterial community and shed light on one of the mechanisms by which trace metals can affect bird fitness. Further studies are now needed to investigate how this effect modulates avian life history traits known to depend on plumage bacterial community. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
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    • "Over the last decade, there has been an increasing interest in the use of sentinel organisms for pollution monitoring studies (Burger et al. 2008). Of these, birds have received particular attention, because they are exposed to heavy metals, both through environmental exposure and diet (Roux and Marra 2007). While many host factors, such as size and age, have received considerable attention in metal bioaccumulation studies in seabirds, gender has received relatively little attention (Burger et al. 2003). "
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    • "Body burden metal concentrations were correlated with soil metal data from the same yard patch type the organism was collected from using Pearson correlation (n = 17 for earthworms and n = 38 for isopods). In addition, blood concentrations of Pb were available for several species of birds in 12 of the residences sampled in this study (Roux & Marra, 2007). We took advantage of this overlap to conduct a post-hoc analysis correlating Pb concentrations in soil, earthworm, and isopod bodies with bird blood concentrations of Pb in the commonly sampled residences using log 10 transformed data in a Pearson correlation. "
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    ABSTRACT: This study examined the distribution of metals in residential soils from the scale of a residential yard to a metropolitan area by comparing residences along an urbanization gradient in the Baltimore–Washington area, USA. In addition, earthworms and terrestrial isopods were sampled from residential yards to measure body burdens of metals. Soil metal concentrations from lawns and planting bed (road, foundation, and yard) patches were compared (1) among land-use types (inner urban, outer urban, suburban, and rural); (2) between pre- and post-1940 built residential structures; and (3) among yard patch types. Lawn soil concentrations of As, Cd, and Pb varied statistically among the land-use types. Differences between inner urban and rural lawn soils varied almost eight-fold for Pb, three-fold for Cd, and more than two-fold for As. Bed patches exhibited a slightly stronger relationship than lawns across the urbanization gradient. A similar relationship was shown for pre- and post-1940 structures with older having higher concentrations than post-1940 structures. Earthworm body burdens were statistically correlated with soil Pb, while isopod burdens exhibited a significant relationship with soil As, Cr, Ni, Pb, and Zn. A post-hoc analysis with bird blood Pb data that was available for the residences, showed a significant relationship with earthworm Pb body burdens. This study suggests that despite policy efforts to reduce metal emissions, contamination of soil persists in urban residences at levels that have health implications for people and wildlife living in the Baltimore–Washington, DC area.
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