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Isotopic identification of the sources of lead contamination for white storks (Ciconia ciconia) in a marshland ecosystem (Donana SW Spain)

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  • Ge Environmental Sciences


White storks (Ciconia ciconia) fed in contaminated waters resulting from the Aznacollar acid mining-sludge spillage into the R. Guadiamar, which feeds the eastern flank of the Guadalquivir marshes (Donana), S.W. Spain. The sludge was rich in a range of toxic elements, and in organic pollutants such as the aromatic amines. Storks did not exhibit elevated metals in their blood immediately following the accident, but chick blood collected the year following the accident showed genotoxic damage compared to the controls. In this study lead isotope analysis was used to assess if the storks had ingested sludge- derived contaminants. The sludge lead isotope ratio was distinct from that of the Donana sediments. The stork blood lead isotope ratios exactly matched that of the sludge. It was concluded that the storks had ingested sludge-derived contaminants. A detailed study of the lead contamination along the R. Guadiamar and the R. Guadalquivir (of which the Guadiamar is a tributary) was also conducted to place the white stork colony lead exposure in the context of the spatial contamination of the storks' habitat.

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