Friday, 19 June 2020

New publication on Vultures and lead!

Arrondo, E., [..], Cortés-Avizanda, A., [...], Donázar, J.A. 2020. Dust and bullets: Stable isotopes and GPS tracking disentangle lead sources for a large avian scavenger. Enviornmental Pollution, in press

Abstract: Lead intoxication is an important threat to human health and a large number of wildlife species. Animals are exposed to several sources of lead highlighting hunting ammunition and lead that is bioavailable in topsoil. Disentangling the role of each in lead exposure is an important conservation issue, particularly for species potentially affected by lead poisoning, such as vultures. The identification of lead sources in vultures and other species has been classically addressed by means of stable-isotope comparisons, but the extremely varied isotope signatures found in ammunition hinders this identification when it overlaps with topsoil signatures.
In addition, assumptions related to the exposure of individual vultures to lead sources have been made without knowledge of the actual feeding grounds exploited by the birds. Here, we combine lead concentration analysis in blood, novel stable isotope approaches to assign the origin of the lead and GPS tracking data to investigate the main foraging grounds of two Iberian griffon vulture populations (N = 58) whose foraging ranges differ in terms of topsoil lead concentration and intensity of big game hunting activity. We found that the lead signature in vultures was closer to topsoil than to ammunition, but this similarity decreased significantly in the area with higher big game hunting activity. In addition, attending to the individual home ranges of the tracked birds, models accounting for the intensity of hunting activity better explained the higher blood lead concentration in vultures than topsoil exposure. In spite of that, our finding also show that lead exposure from topsoil is more important than previously thought

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