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HP2 Wildlife as Ecological Receptors at Hazardous Waste Sites
(573) Harlequin ducks and the Exxon Valdez oil spill: the long road to recovery.
Esler, D.1, Trust, K.2, Iverson, S.1, Mulcahy, D.3, 1 Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, B.C., Canada2 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Anchorage, AK, USA3 U.S. Geological Survey, Anchorage, AK, USA
ABSTRACT- The 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill resulted in contamination of the nearshore environment of Prince William Sound, an important wintering area for harlequin ducks. The effects of the spill on wildlife populations varied by species, but the harlequin duck was one for which long-term, population-level effects were documented. These effects included reduced overwinter survival of females in oiled areas, as well as strong evidence of continued exposure to oil, based on induction of cytochrome P4501A (CYP1A). No evidence of recovery was detected through 1998. During winters 2000-03, we followed up on these studies, collecting the same data endpoints. By 2003, we found that female survival and CYP1A induction were similar between oiled and unoiled areas, suggesting that spill related injury was no longer occurring. This series of studies is an unprecedented documentation of the recovery process and timeline for oil spill injured wildlife. The time necessary for injury to abate was more than a decade, much longer than the conventional assumption that oil spill effects are negligible after a year or two.
Key words: Exxon, ducks, oil, recovery
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