Impact of oil-sands based wetlands on the growth of mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) ducklings



Identifying the potential effects of industrially formed wetlands on waterfowl populations is important for assessing the suitability of such wetlands in industrial reclamation strategies. Mallard ducklings were held in situ on two industrially formed wetlands and one reference wetland in northern Alberta, Canada. Duckling mass and skeletal size were measured at regular intervals over 33 d, and blood was collected to investigate the analysis of plasma metabolites (triglyceride and glycerol) as an indicator of physiological condition. In repeated-measures analysis of variance (ANOVA), multivariate ANOVA, and subsequent multiple-comparisons tests, body mass and skeletal size were significantly lower in ducklings maintained on the industrial wetland after 2, 5, 9, and 13 d of exposure. In this situation, plasma metabolite analysis did not provide additional information on mass-independent condition. We conclude that if the observed differences in growth and size translate into a decreased survival of juvenile waterfowl inhabiting these wetlands, then populations of these birds in the area could be negatively affected. We emphasize the importance of field-based ecological research in toxicological studies of wildlife.