Cross-ecosystem boundary effects of metal contamination
The objective of this project is to assess effects of contaminants across ecosystem boundaries. We focus on interactions between aquatic insects (prey) and terrestrial insectivorous birds (predator), aiming to understand the how insects can serve as biovectors and resources in metal contaminated environments.
Aquatic insects serve as a source of nutrients for terrestrial consumers when they emerge as adults, but they can also function as biovectors by returning contaminants to the terrestrial ecosystem. Within this project we focus on the link between contaminant exposure and trophic cascade effects within the food web and across ecosystem boundaries. Aquatic insects are often of high quality, for example rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, thus they are high-quality food for terrestrial consumers. If they in turn contain high concentration of metals, predators including aquatic insects in their diet will be subjected to both beneficial and detrimental effects. The abundance of aquatic insects can also be affected by metal exposure during the larvae stage, thus reducing the available amount of food for terrestrial consumers.
We will study direct and indirect effects of aquatic metal exposure across ecosystem boundaries. We will focus on direct toxic effects on insects and insectivorous birds (Pied flycatcher) as well as the impact of metal flux, food quantity and quality on bird health and reproduction, in a setting around an abandoned lead/zinc mine.