Migrating Tundra Peregrine Falcons accumulate polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons along Gulf of Mexico following Deepwater Horizon oil spill

William S Seegar, Michael A Yates, Gregg E Doney, J Peter Jenny, Tom C M Seegar, Christopher Perkins, Matthew Giovanni
Ecotoxicology 2015, 24 (5): 1102-11
Monitoring internal crude oil exposure can assist the understanding of associated risks and impacts, as well as the effectiveness of restoration efforts. Under the auspices of a long-term monitoring program of Tundra Peregrine Falcons (Falco peregrinus tundrius) at Assateague (Maryland) and South Padre Islands (Texas), we measured the 16 parent (unsubstituted) polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), priority pollutants identified by the United States Environmental Protection Agency and components of crude oil, in peripheral blood cells of migrating Peregrine Falcons from 2009 to 2011. The study was designed to assess the spatial and temporal trends of crude oil exposure associated with the 2010 Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill which started 20 April 2010 and was capped on 15 July of that year. Basal PAH blood distributions were determined from pre-DWH oil spill (2009) and unaffected reference area sampling. This sentinel species, a predator of shorebirds and seabirds during migration, was potentially exposed to residual oil from the spill in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Results demonstrate an increased incidence (frequency of PAH detection and blood concentrations) of PAH contamination in 2010 fall migrants sampled along the Texas Gulf Coast, declining to near basal levels in 2011. Kaplan-Meier peak mean ∑PAH blood concentration estimates varied with age (Juveniles-16.28 ± 1.25, Adults-5.41 ± 1.10 ng/g, wet weight) and PAHs detected, likely attributed to the discussed Tundra Peregrine natural history traits. Increased incidence of fluorene, pyrene and anthracene, with the presence of alkylated PAHs in peregrine blood suggests an additional crude oil source after DWH oil spill. The analyses of PAHs in Peregrine Falcon blood provide a convenient repeatable method, in conjunction with ongoing banding efforts, to monitoring crude oil contamination in this avian predator.

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