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Trophic magnification of organic chemicals: A global synthesis

March 25, 2016

Production of organic chemicals (OCs) is increasing exponentially, and some OCs biomagnify through food webs to potentially toxic levels. Biomagnification under field conditions is best described by trophic magnification factors (TMFs; per trophic level change in log-concentration of a chemical) which have been measured for more than two decades. Syntheses of TMF behavior relative to chemical traits and ecosystem properties are lacking. We analyzed >1500 TMFs to identify OCs predisposed to biomagnify and to assess ecosystem vulnerability. The highest TMFs were for OCs that are slowly metabolized by animals (metabolic rate kM < 0.01 day–1) and are moderately hydrophobic (log KOW 6–8). TMFs were more variable in marine than freshwaters, unrelated to latitude, and highest in food webs containing endotherms. We modeled the probability that any OC would biomagnify as a combined function of KOW and kM. Probability is greatest (∼100%) for slowly metabolized compounds, regardless of KOW, and lowest for chemicals with rapid transformation rates (kM > 0.2 day–1). This probabilistic model provides a new global tool for screening existing and new OCs for their biomagnification potential.

Publication Year 2016
Title Trophic magnification of organic chemicals: A global synthesis
DOI 10.1021/acs.est.6b00201
Authors David Walters, T.D. Jardine, Brian S. Cade, K.A. Kidd, D.C.G. Muir, Peter C. Leipzig-Scott
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Environmental Science & Technology
Index ID 70170378
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Fort Collins Science Center; Toxic Substances Hydrology Program