This study was conducted to provide additional interpretation of the relation of organochlorine pollutants to reproductive success and population stability of brown pelicans Pelecanus occidentalis in the southeastern United States from 1969 to 1977. The sample egg technique was employed in South Carolina; it involved collecting an egg from each of 156 marked nests, analysing the eggs for residues and relating residue levels to nest success. All of the organochlorines appeared to induce adverse effects on reproductive success of brown pelicans, but the correlative evidence indicated that DDE was responsible for most of the pollutant-related nest failure. Close intercorrelation of each of the organochlorines presented a problem in the separation of the effects of each pollutant. The critical level of DDE in brown pelican eggs was 3 :g g-1, this level was associated with substantially impaired reproductive success and 4 :g g-1 of DDE was associated with sotal reproductive failure. The critical level for dieldrin was not determined, but it appeared to exceed 1 :g g-1. Dieldrin, DDT, DDD and the PCBs apparently exerted a minor effect on reproductive success of brown pelicans in South Carolina. Endrin seemed to induce reproductive impairment in brown pelicans in Louisiana in 1975. The critical level in eggs is only roughly estimated at <0?5 :g g-1 because it was not possible to use the sample egg technique in this small population. Significant declines in organochlorine residues in South Carolina during this study were associated with increases in eggshell thickness, reproductive success and the breeding population. Of those avian species studied, the brown pelican remains the most sensitive to organochlorine contaminants, particularly DDE and endrin; factors related to this sensitivity are poorly known.
Additional publication details
Further interpretation of the relation of organochlorine residues in brown pelican eggs to reproductive success