Do Bird Assemblages Predict Susceptibility by E-Waste Pollution? A Comparative Study Based on Species- and Guild-Dependent Responses in China Agroecosystems

Zhang, Qiang; Wu, Jiangping; Sun, Yuxin; Zhang, Min; Mai, Bixian; Mo, Ling; Lee, Tien Ming; Zou, Fasheng

Indirect effects of electronic waste (e-waste) have been proposed as a causal factor in the decline of bird populations, but analyses of the severity impacts on community assembly are currently lacking. To explore how population abundance/species diversity are influenced, and which functional traits are important in determining e-waste susceptibility, here we surveyed breeding and overwintering birds with a hierarchically nested sampling design, and used linear mixed models to analyze changes in bird assemblages along an exposure gradient in South China. Total bird abundance and species diversity decreased with e-waste severity (exposed < surrounding < reference), reflecting the decreasing discharge and consequent side effects. Twenty-five breeding species exclusively used natural farmland, and nine species decreased significantly in relative abundance at e-waste polluted sites. A high pairwise similarity between exposed and surrounding sites indicates a diffuse effect of pollutants on the species assembly at local scale. We show that sensitivity to e-waste severity varies substantially across functional guild, with the prevalence of woodland insectivorous and grassland specialists declining, while some open farmland generalists such as arboreal frugivores, and terrestrial granivores were also rare. By contrast, the response of waterbirds, omnivorous and non-breeding visitors seem to be tolerable to a wide range of pollution so far. These findings underscore that improper e-waste dismantling results in a severe decline of bird diversity, and the different bird assemblages on polluted and natural farmlands imply species- and guild-dependent susceptibility with functional traits. Moreover, a better understanding of the impact of e-waste with different pollution levels, combined multiple pollutants, and in a food-web context on bird is required in future.

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Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology
Earth Institute
Published Here
January 7, 2016