Levels of organohalogen compounds in White-tailed sea eagles (Haliaeetus albicilla) in relation to reproduction impairment in the Bothnian Sea

University dissertation from Stockholm : Department of Applied Environmental Science (ITM), Stockholm University

Abstract: The white-tailed sea eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) is in the top of the marine food chain and its existence in Sweden has been threatened several times. The species succeeded to recover from the deep decline in the 1970s when the exposure to persistent organic pollutants influenced the reproduction negatively. The species is today spread over the country but is still seen as a near threatened species. Even though a recovery has occurred there is still some reproduction problems seen in the region of the south Bothnian Sea. The work presented in this thesis has focused on expanding the knowledge of bromine and chlorine containing compounds in the white-tailed sea eagles and to correlate the levels found with the reproduction impairment in the region of south Bothnian Sea. Eggs and blood from nestlings collected from different subpopulations, from the Arctic (Lapland) in the north to the Baltic Proper in the south of Sweden, have been studied for polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDD), dibenzofurans (PCDF), non-ortho-substituted polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB), brominated flame retardants, methoxylated- (MeO-), and hydroxylated- (OH)-polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs). Some of the investigated compounds have been compared with levels found in a unique white-tailed sea eagle egg collected in the Baltic Proper in 1941. The pattern and levels of PCDD and PCDF in 1941 were similar and in the same range as found today around the same area. Furthermore, the human activity has raised the PCB levels in the white-tailed sea eagles with over 120 times over the last 60 years but these levels are still much lower than in the 1970s. In conclusion none of the investigated compounds in this thesis could be correlated to the reduced reproduction seen in the south Bothnian Sea but the levels of PCDD, PCDF, non-ortho­-PCB and OH-PBDE are high in the populations inhabiting the Baltic Sea and are in the same range as found to cause different biological responses in other avian species worldwide.