Trace metals and metalloids in Andean flamingos (Phoenicoparrus andinus) and Puna flamingos (P. jamesi) at two wetlands with different risk of exposure in the Bolivian Altiplano

O. Rocha, L. F. Pacheco, G. R. Ayala, F. Varela, F. Arengo

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Birds are widely used as bioindicators in monitoring programs in wetlands. We compare concentrations of seven trace metals and metalloids (TMM) As, Cd, Cu, Fe, Hg, Pb, Znin both feathers and blood in two flamingo species in two high-altitude wetlands in Bolivia, with different levels of anthropogenic point source pollution. Lake Uru Uru (LUU) receives discharges from mining operations, and also effluents from the nearby city of Oruro, while Laguna Colorada (LCo) does not receive contaminants from anthropogenic sources. We sampled water and sediments at each site, as well as flamingos in three age classes in an effort to establish a benchmark for long-term monitoring. Metal concentrations in water did not differ between sites, whereas Zn and Pb concentrations of TMM in sediments were higher at LUU, and Hg higher at LCo. TMM concentrations were highly specific for all separate elements, but results point to differences between Andean flamingo (Phoenicoparrus andinus) chicks and the rest of the classes considered. As flamingo chicks did not molt before sampling, we pose that TMM concentrations in their blood and feathers may respond mainly to local conditions. Eggshells provide additional information, since adults transfer some TMM during egg development. Long-term monitoring in these species should include different age classes and sample both feathers and eggshells to monitor the environmental conditions and bioaccumulation of TMM in these species. Future studies should include sites devoid of natural sources of TMM to help distinguish sources of contamination, since some TMM (As and Pb) may be naturally in high concentrations in remote areas, like Laguna Colorada.

Original languageEnglish
Article number535
JournalEnvironmental Monitoring and Assessment
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was funded by Minera Escondida Ltda.

Funding Information:
Fernando Guerra and Basilio Alvarez assisted with fieldwork. Flavia Monta?o helped with the MANOVA analyses. Research and collection permits were obtained from the Direcci?n General de Biodiversidad y ?reas Protegidas, and Servicio Nacional de ?reas Protegidas of the Bolivian government. Marcela Uhart, Ignacio Rodr?guez-Jorquera, Carlos Molina, M?nica Olivera, Marisol Buenfil, Marcelo Romano, Chad Seewagen, and Dar?o Ach? provided helpful comments that improved an earlier version of this manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Switzerland AG.


  • Biomonitoring
  • High Andes, Mining contamination
  • Laguna Colorada
  • Lake Uru Uru


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