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Chemical threats en route: risks of contaminants for migratory birds

  • 2 December, 2019
  • Wageningen University, Toxicology
  • prof. dr ir IMCM Rietjens
  • dr ir NW van den Brink

Wetlands are often contaminated with a range of chemicals. Since many migratory bird species are under environmental threat and rely on feeding in wetlands, contaminant exposure may affect them even more severe. The lack of knowledge on potential impacts of contaminants on these species is striking and potentially hampering efficient management of their populations. Therefore, our aim is to quantify toxicokinetics of contaminants in migratory birds along the East Atlantic Flyway, and sub-lethal impacts on their behaviour and immune responses. These sub-lethal impacts are of prime importance because they may affect the birds’ migration potential and increase their susceptibility to infectious diseases, which may indirectly affect their population dynamics. In order to gain such insight, an exposure assessment will be performed based on concentrations in main diet items of two migratory bird species with contrasting migratory strategies. Depending on migration strategy, birds are exposed to varying mixtures of contaminants at different stop-over places. Main contaminants will be determined based on the exposure assessment, and internal concentrations of these main contaminants will be quantified in birds using non-destructive sampling methods at different stages of migration. The outcomes will be extrapolated to other migratory bird species via a trait-based approach focussing on traits like diet and migration strategy. This proposed research will provide insight into risks for birds with different migration strategies from a contaminant exposure perspective. The environmental quality of different locations along the flyway will be assessed and potential adverse environmental impacts of contaminants detected. These novel insights are valuable for the optimization of habitat quality management for a better conservation of migratory birds.


Aafke Saarloos

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