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1 September 2008 Using Raptors as Environmental Sentinels: Monitoring the White-tailed Sea Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla in Sweden
Björn Helander, Anders Bignert, Lillemor Asplund
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This paper summarizes results from the monitoring of reproduction of white-tailed sea eagle in Sweden 1965–2006. Since 1989 the eagle population on the Swedish Baltic coast has been included in the National Environment Monitoring Program as an indicator species for potentially harmful chemicals. The percentage of successfully reproducing pairs and nestling brood size decreased in synchrony with rising concentrations of contaminants in the 1950s on into the 1970s. Mean productivity was 1.3 young per pair prior to 1950 and decreased to 0.3 in 1965–1985. Dichlorodiphenyldichloroethene (DDE) in eagle eggs decreased from a range of annual means in 1965–1974 of 600-1200 μg g−1 (lipid weight) to 60–140 μg g−1 in 1996–2005. Total polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) concentrations averaged above 1000 μg g−1 into the early 1980s and remained in the range of 250–500 μg g−1 in 1996–2005. Productivity began to improve when concentrations of DDE and PCBs dropped below approximately 300 and 800 μg g−1, respectively. Brood size remains below the pre-1950 level in one coastal region, indicating a possible impact from other contaminants. The power to detect significant trends under the program is presented and discussed: if white-tailed sea eagle reproduction had been monitored earlier during the 20th century, the negative impact of dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT, source of DDE) would have been signaled as early as the 1950s in the Baltic Sea. The dramatic fall of white-tailed sea eagle reproduction under the influence of DDT and PCBs, and the subsequent rise following their ban, illustrates the usefulness of raptors like sea eagles as sentinels for environmental pollutants.

Björn Helander, Anders Bignert, and Lillemor Asplund "Using Raptors as Environmental Sentinels: Monitoring the White-tailed Sea Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla in Sweden," AMBIO: A Journal of the Human Environment 37(6), 425-431, (1 September 2008).[425:URAESM]2.0.CO;2
Published: 1 September 2008

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