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Is the urban-adapted ring-billed gull a biovector for flame retardants?

Desjardins, Chloé F., Mazerolle, Marc J., Verreault, Jonathan
Environmental pollution 2019 v.244 pp. 109-117
Larus delawarensis, animal manures, birds, breeding, ecosystems, feces, females, flame retardants, hydrophobicity, males, nutrients, polybrominated diphenyl ethers, toxic substances, Quebec
Birds may act as biovectors of nutrients and contaminants at the regional scale and potentially increase the exposure to such substances in ecosystems frequented by these birds. However, no study has estimated biotransport of contaminants by individual birds through their feces (guano). Elevated concentrations of halogenated flame retardants (HFRs) have been reported in ring-billed gulls (Larus delawarensis) breeding near Montreal (QC, Canada)- a known hotspot for HFRs. The objective of the present study was to investigate the concentrations of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and selected emerging HFRs (e.g., Dechlorane-related compounds) in guano of individual ring-billed gulls, and to assess the relative accumulation of these HFRs by comparing concentrations in plasma (absorbed) versus guano (excreted). A second objective was to determine the importance of one of the largest ring-billed gull colony (Deslauriers Island) in North America located near Montreal as a vector of HFR biotransport at the regional scale. Elevated concentrations of PBDEs and Dechlorane plus were determined in guano and plasma of ring-billed gulls, although in general no difference was found between males and females. However, plasma to guano concentration ratios were significantly greater in females for the highly hydrophobic BDE-209 and Dechlorane plus compared to males. Overall, for both sexes combined, the total amount of HFRs (sum of the 16 major PBDEs and five emerging HFRs) deposited by this entire colony (64,980 gulls) in the Montreal area through guano during the 28-days incubation period was estimated to 1 g. This study showed that urban-adapted ring-billed gulls from this large colony represent an underestimated biovector of HFRs, which may contribute to augment exposure to these toxic compounds in nearby ecosystems.