Riparian swallows as integrators of landscape change in a multiuse river system: Implications for aquatic-to-terrestrial transfers of contaminants

Jeremy M. Alberts, S. Mažeika P. Sullivan, A. Kautza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations

Abstract

Recent research has highlighted the transfer of contaminants from aquatic to terrestrial ecosystems via predation of aquatic emergent insects by riparian consumers. The influence of adjacent land use and land cover (LULC) on aquatic-to-terrestrial contaminant transfer, however, has received limited attention. From 2010 to 2012, at 11 river reaches in the Scioto River basin (OH, USA), we investigated the relationships between LULC and selenium (Se) and mercury (Hg) concentrations in four species of riparian swallows. Hg concentrations in swallows were significantly higher at rural reaches than at urban reaches (t=-3.58, P<0.001, df=30), whereas Se concentrations were positively associated with adjacent land cover characterized by mature tree cover (R2=0.49, P=0.006). To an extent, these relationships appear to be mediated by swallow reliance on aquatic emergent insects. For example, tree swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) at urban reaches exhibited a higher proportion of aquatic prey in their diet, fed at a higher trophic level, and exhibited elevated Se levels. We also found that both Se and Hg concentrations in adult swallows were significantly higher than those observed in nestlings at both urban and rural reaches (Se: t=-2.83, P=0.033, df=3; Hg: t=-3.22, P=0.024, df=3). Collectively, our results indicate that riparian swallows integrate contaminant exposure in linked aquatic-terrestrial systems and that LULC may strongly regulate aquatic contaminant flux to terrestrial consumers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)42-50
Number of pages9
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Volume463-464
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 1 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Research support was provided by state and federal funds appropriated to The Ohio State University, Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center . We would like to thank Paradzayi Tagwireyi for his help in the field.

Keywords

  • Aquatic-terrestrial linkages
  • Biomagnification
  • Riparian swallows

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