Influence of landscape composition and diversity on contaminant flux in terrestrial food webs: A case study of trace metal transfer to European blackbirds Turdus merula

C. Fritsch, M. Coeurdassier, B. Faivre, P.E. Baurand, P. Giraudoux, N.W. van den Brink, R. Scheifler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Although understanding the influence of the spatial arrangement of habitats and interacting communities on the processes of pollutant flux and impacts is critical for exposure and risk assessment, to date few studies have been devoted to this emergent topic. We tested the hypothesis that landscape composition and diversity affect the transfer of trace metals to vertebrates. Bioaccumulation of Cd and Pb in blood and feathers of European blackbirds Turdus merula (n=138) was studied over a smelter-impacted area (Northern France). Landscape composition (type and occurrence of the different habitats) and diversity (number of different habitat types and the proportional area distribution among habitat types) were computed around bird capture locations. Diet composition and contamination were assessed. No sex-related differences were detected, while age-related patterns were found: yearlings showed a sharper increase of tissue residues along the pollution gradient than older birds. Factors determining bird exposure acted at nested spatial scale. On a broad scale, environmental contamination mainly influenced metal levels in blackbirds, tissue residues increasing with soil contamination. At a finer grain, landscape composition and soil properties (pH, organic matter, clay) influenced metal transfer, while no influence of landscape diversity was detected. landscape composition better explained metal transfer than soil properties did. Diet composition varied according to landscape composition, but diet diversity was not influenced by landscape diversity. Surprisingly, metal accumulation in some insect taxa was as high as in earthworms (known as hyper-accumulators). Results strongly suggested that variations in diet composition were the drivers through which landscape composition influenced metal transfer to blackbirds. This study shows that landscape features can affect pollutant transfer in food webs, partly through ecological processes related to spatial and foraging behavior of birds, and brings evidences underpinning the need to better consider landscape in environmental risk assessment and management of contaminated lands.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)275-287
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Volume432
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2012

Keywords

  • ecological risk-assessment
  • small mammals
  • soil properties
  • heavy-metals
  • host factors
  • birds
  • lead
  • bioavailability
  • exposure
  • cadmium

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