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The Predatory Bird Monitoring Scheme (PBMS) Report 2006-7

By L.A. Walker, A.J. Lawlor, N. Llewellyn, M.G. Pereira, Elaine Potter, J. Townsend, A. Turk and R.F. Shore


The Predatory Bird Monitoring Scheme (PBMS) examines the levels of certain pollutants in selected wildlife species in Britain. It started in the 1960s to assess the impact of organochlorine pesticides on raptor populations, and the scheme is now the longest-running of its kind in the\ud world. The aims of the PBMS are to monitor the levels of contaminants to determine how and why they vary between species and regions, how they are changing over time, and the risks they may have on individual birds and on their populations. Dead predatory birds are submitted to the\ud PBMS by the public and by wildlife hospitals, veterinarian and zoological organisations. Eggs are collected, under licence, from a range of nests. The majority of these eggs are addled or deserted, although for some species, e.g. northern gannets, fresh egg are sampled.\ud \ud Second generation anticoagulant rodenticides (SGARs) are potentially toxic to all mammals and birds, and predators that feed upon rodents are particularly likely to be exposed to these compounds. Since 1983 the PBMS has monitored SGAR residues in barn owls, while kestrels\ud have been monitored since 2001. The proportion of barn owls which have one or more SGARs in their liver increased from less than 10% in the 1980s to approximately 40% in the early 2000s. However, there has been a small decrease in this percentage in the last few years. A higher proportion of kestrels have detectable residues of SGARs in their liver than barn owls with 60% of birds received in the years 2001 to 2006 having one or more SGAR in their liver. There is no evidence of a change over time in the proportion ok kestrels with detectable liver SGAR residues.\ud Overall, the high incidence of exposure amongst monitored species remains of concern.\ud \ud Sparrowhawk livers are analysed for a range of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and heavy metals. Sparrowhawks are studied because they have a wide distribution across the Britain and can be used as a sentinel species for the terrestrial environment. Following restrictions on its use as an agricultural pesticide, mercury concentrations have declined in sparrowhawks. However, despite PCBs being banned in 1981, there has not been any long-term change in polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) liver concentrations in sparrowhawks during the period 1968-2006. In herons, used as a sentinel species for freshwater habitats, both PCB and mercury concentrations have declined. In 2006, mean PCB and mercury concentrations in both species were below those thought to have an adverse effect on individual birds.\ud Pollutants, such as mercury and PCBs, can affect development and hatchability.. Therefore, the PBMS monitors the levels of contaminants in the eggs of a range of species including those of conservation concern such as golden eagle and the re-introduced white-tailed sea eagle. \ud \ud Other species that are monitored are the northern gannet, which are used as a monitor of the marine environment, and merlin that hunt in upland habitats. In general, and specifically in 2006, the residues measured in the eggs of golden eagle and gannets are below those thought to have an\ud adverse effect on bird eggs, but some residues in individual merlin eggs were at concentrations associated with effects in other species. Few white-tailed see eagle eggs are received for analysis by the PBMS but a large proportion of those eggs that have been analysed, including the egg collected in 2006, have DDE, PCB and mercury concentrations above levels associated with adverse effects on bird embryos and the hatching success of eggs.\ud \ud Despite the withdrawal of PCBs from manufacturing over 20 years ago, the evidence for declining PCB concentrations in predatory birds is equivocal, with declines in liver or egg residues in some species but not in others. Mercury concentrations in most species have not significantly changed during the monitoring period

Topics: Agriculture and Soil Science, Ecology and Environment
Publisher: Centre for Ecology and Hydrology
Year: 2010
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