Tracking the sources of polybrominated diphenyl ethers in birds: Foraging in waste management facilities results in higher DecaBDE exposure in males.
Marie-Line Gentes, Marc Mazerolle, Jean-François Giroux, Martin Patenaude-Monette, Jonathan Verreault.
Differences in feeding ecology are now recognized as major determinants of inter-individual variations in contaminant profiles of free-ranging animals, but exceedingly little attention has been devoted to the role of habitat use. Marked inter-individual variations and high levels of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) (e.g., DecaBDE) have previously been documented in ring-billed gulls (Larus delawarensis) breeding in a colony near Montreal (QC, Canada). However, the environmental sources of these compounds, and thus the reasons causing these large inter-individual variations remain unidentified. In the present study, we used GPS-based telemetry (±5 to 10 m precision) to track ring-billed gulls from this colony to reconstruct their movements at the landscape level. We related habitat use of individual gulls (n=76) to plasma concentrations (ng/g ww) and relative contributions (percentages) to ?38PBDEs of major congeners in the internationally restricted PentaBDE and current-use DecaBDE mixtures. Male gulls that visited waste management facilities (WMFs; i.e., landfills, wastewater treatment plants and related facilities; 25% of all GPS-tracked males) exhibited greater DecaBDE (concentrations and percentages) and lower PentaBDE (percentages) relative to those that did not. In contrast, no such relationships were found in females. Moreover, in males, DecaBDE (concentrations and percentages) increased with percentages of time spent in WMFs (i.e., ~5% of total foraging time), while PentaBDE (percentages) decreased. No relationships between percentages of time spent in other habitats (i.e., urban areas, agriculture fields, and St. Lawrence River) were found in either sex. These findings suggest that animals breeding in the vicinity of WMFs as well as mobile species that only use these sites for short stopovers to forage, could be at risk of enhanced DecaBDE exposure.