Birds in Amazon Rainforest threatened by mercury

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Birds in Amazon Rainforest threatened by mercury

The birds of the Western part of the Amazon Rainforest would be threatened by mercury, and this affects both aquatic and scavenger birds. This was stated by the study Mercury in birds (aquatic and scavenger) from the Western Amazon, published on the Environmental research.

The study said: "In the Amazon rainforest, methylmercury (MeHg) is easily biomagnified and bio-accumulated in the aquatic food chain. This unique biome has been studied for occupational and environmental issues related to human health and contamination through fish consumption; however, wildlife studies have not yet addressed fish-eating birds.

Different species of birds categorized by foraging strategies and life-stages were studied in the Madeira River Basin (Western Amazon rainforest). Feather and tissue (muscle, liver, kidneys, lungs, heart, brain, and blood) samples were collected opportunistically from six bird species feeding on fish and aquatic fauna and a scavenger (a saprophagous species) during the low-water season (July 2017).

All collected samples were analyzed for total Hg (THg); methyl-Hg (MeHg) was determined only in feathers. The mean THg concentrations in feathers (dw) were as follows: Ardea cocoi (4.05 μg g-1, n = 51)> Egretta thulla (3.94 μg g-1, n = 5)> Ardea alb a (3.80 μg g-1, n = 61)> Anhinga anhinga (3.69 μg g-1, n = 8)> Nannopterum brasilianus (3.07 μg g-1, n = 10).

The scavenger Coragyps atratus showed mean THg in feathers (9.93 μg g-1, n = 30) to be significantly higher than in fish-eating birds. Across species, THg levels in feathers correlated significantly with THgmuscle (p = 0.022) and THgbrain (p = 0.002).

THg concentrations varied in tissues (feather> liver> kidneys> lungs> heart> muscle> blood> brain). The Hgbrain: Hgfeather, Hgbrain: Hgmuscle, and Hgbrain: Hgblood ratios were 0.031, 0.503 and 0.516, respectively.

The mean [MeHg: THg] ratio in feathers from aquatic birds varied between species from 14 to 74% with a mean of 38%. Scavenger birds that forage in the terrestrial Amazonian environments concentrate more THg than species that forage in the aquatic environment.

None of the aquatic species showed THg concentration in internal organs that were above threshold for risk of Hg toxicity; additionally, they are not listed in the categories of threat by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). "