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Herons persist in Chicago wetlands despite exposure to banned chemicals
Date:1/16/2008

e come to shore to spawn when the first warm waters of spring run into the lake and the temperature starts to rise, he said. There are untold millions of these things along the (Lake Michigan) shore in April.

On several occasions the researchers saw large numbers of night-herons in some cases a hundred birds or more along the sea walls on the southwest shore of Lake Michigan, Levengood said. Theyd be standing there peering into the water, and then theyd kind of do a belly flop into the water and grab a fish.

The researchers collected data over two years and conducted several genetic, biochemical and reproductive analyses to determine whether the chemical exposures were adversely affecting the birds. They looked at DNA strand length (a measure of genetic damage) and oxidative stress (a contributor to aging and disease) and compared the number of eggs and the viability of the eggs and young chicks to those in other, less polluted reference colonies of black-crowned night-herons in Minnesota and Virginia.

These were all normal compared to the reference colonies, Levengood said.

The team found no evidence of eggshell-thinning, which is sometimes associated with exposure to DDE.

So thats the good news: Even though theyre getting an exposure, its not enough to cause problems at least in those parameters we measured, Levengood said.

The researchers did see an increase in some liver enzymes, he said, but thats not unexpected because the liver is trying to detoxify these compounds. The long-term consequences of the rise in these liver enzymes are unknown, he said.

Populations of black-crowned night-herons in the Lake Calumet wetlands have fluctuated dramatically in the last 20 years, peaking at more than 1,500 birds in the early to mid-1990s. This population increase coincided with prolonged flooding in nearby rivers, which may have disadvantaged these short-legged herons, Levengood said.

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Contact: Diana Yates
diya@uiuc.edu
217-333-5802
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Source:Eurekalert  

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