Organochlorine and trace element contamination in wintering and migrating diving ducks in the Southern Great Lakes, USA, since the zebra mussel invasion

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Because of the potential for increased trophic transfer of contaminants by zebra mussels (Dreissena sp.) to higher trophic levels, we collected four species of waterfowl (n = 65 ducks) from four locations in Lake Erie, Lake St. Clair, and Lake Michigan, USA, between 1991 and 1993 for organochlorine contaminant and trace element analyses. Geometric mean concentrations of total polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and p, p′-dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (DDE) were 1.35 and 0.15 μg/g wet weight in lesser scaup (Aythya affinis) carcasses and were below known effect levels. Total PCBs in 80% of carcasses, however, were above the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's threshold of 3.0 μg/g lipid weight for consumption of poultry. With the exception of selenium, trace elements were also at background or no-effect levels. Selenium concentrations in livers of 95% of lesser scaup, 90% of bufflehead (Bucephala albeola), and 72% of common goldeneye (Bucephala clangula) were in the elevated (>10 μg/g dry wt) or potentially harmful range (>33 μg/g dry wt). The effects of these high selenium concentrations are unknown but should be investigated further based on reproductive effects observed in field and laboratory studies of dabbling ducks and because lesser scaup populations are declining. Concentrations of total PCBs in dreissenid mussels in western Lake Erie were 10 times higher than in the upper Mississippi River but were similar to concentrations in other industrialized rivers in Europe and the United States. Metal concentrations were similar to other industrialized sites where zebra mussels have been sampled.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Diving ducks
  • Lesser scaup
  • Organochlorine contaminants
  • Selenium
  • Trace elements

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