Effective mitigation of the risks posed by environmental contaminants for ecosystem integrity and human health requires knowing their sources and spatio-temporal distribution. We analysed the exposure to lead (Pb) in griffon vulture Gyps fulvus—an apex species valuable as biomonitoring sentinel. We determined vultures' lead exposure and its main sources by combining isotope signatures and modelling analyses of 691 bird blood samples collected over 5 years. We made yearlong spatially explicit predictions of the species risk of lead exposure. Our results highlight elevated lead exposure of griffon vultures (i.e. 44.9% of the studied population, approximately 15% of the European, showed lead blood levels more than 200 ng ml−1) partly owing to environmental lead (e.g. geological sources). These exposures to environmental lead of geological sources increased in those vultures exposed to point sources (e.g. lead-based ammunition). These spatial models and pollutant risk maps are powerful tools that identify areas of wildlife exposure to potentially harmful sources of lead that could affect ecosystem and human health.
- Received March 22, 2016.
- Accepted June 29, 2016.
- © 2016 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.