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Persistent Organic Pollutants in British Columbia Grizzly Bears:  Consequence of Divergent Diets

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journal contribution
posted on 15.09.2005, 00:00 by Jennie R. Christensen, Misty MacDuffee, Robie W. Macdonald, Michael Whiticar, Peter S. Ross
Nitrogen and carbon stable isotope signatures in growing hair reveal that while some British Columbia grizzly bears (Ursus arctos horribilis) rely entirely on terrestrial foods, others switch in late summer to returning Pacific salmon (Oncorynchus spp.). Implications for persistent organic pollutant (POP) concentrations and patterns measured in the two feeding groups of grizzly bears were profound. While the bears consuming a higher proportion of terrestrial vegetation (“interior” grizzlies) exhibited POP patterns dominated by the more volatile organochlorine (OC) pesticides and the heavier polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs:  e.g., BDE-209), the bears consuming salmon were dominated by the more bioaccumulative POPs (e.g., DDT, chlordanes, and BDE-47). The ocean-salmon-bear pathway appeared to preferentially select for those contaminants with intermediate partitioning strength from water into lipid (log Kow ∼ 6.5). This pattern reflects an optimum contaminant log Kow range for atmospheric transport, deposition into the marine environment, uptake into marine biota, accumulation through the food web, and retention in the bear tissues. We estimate that salmon deliver 70% of all OC pesticides, up to 85% of the lower brominated PBDE congeners, and 90% of PCBs found in salmon-eating grizzly bears, thereby inextricably linking these terrestrial predators to contaminants from the North Pacific Ocean.