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Keywords:

  • Bird;
  • Expert elicitation;
  • Exposure;
  • Food;
  • Mercury;
  • Monte-Carlo simulation

Abstract

Dietary Hg exposure was modeled for Carolina wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus), Eastern song sparrow (Melospiza melodia), and Eastern screech owl (Otus asio) nesting on the contaminated South River floodplain (Virginia, USA). Parameterization of Monte-Carlo models required formal expert elicitation to define bird body weight and feeding ecology characteristics because specific information was either unavailable in the published literature or too difficult to collect reliably by field survey. Mercury concentrations and weights for candidate food items were obtained directly by field survey. Simulations predicted the probability that an adult bird during breeding season would ingest specific amounts of Hg during daily foraging and the probability that the average Hg ingestion rate for the breeding season of an adult bird would exceed published rates reported to cause harm to other birds (>100 ng total Hg/g body weight per day). Despite the extensive floodplain contamination, the probabilities that these species' average ingestion rates exceeded the threshold value were all <0.01. Sensitivity analysis indicated that overall food ingestion rate was the most important factor determining projected Hg ingestion rates. Expert elicitation was useful in providing sufficiently reliable information for Monte-Carlo simulation. Integr Environ Assess Manag 2013; 9: 285–293. © 2013 SETAC