John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Effects of Coal Fly Ash on Tree Swallow Reproduction in Watts Bar Reservoir, Tennessee

Coal‐fly ash was released in unprecedented amounts (4.1x106 m3) into the Emory River from the Tennessee Valley Authority Kingston Fossil Plant on Watts Bar Reservoir in Tennessee. Tree swallows were exposed to ash‐related constituents at the ash release via their diet of emergent aquatic insects, whose larval forms can accumulate constituents from submerged river sediments. Reproduction of tree swallow colonies was assessed over a two‐year period by evaluating whether 1) ash constituent concentrations were elevated in egg, eggshell, and nestling tissues at colonies near ash‐impacted river reaches compared to reference colonies; 2) production of fledglings per nesting female was significantly lower in ash‐impacted colonies versus reference colonies; and 3) ash constituent concentrations or diet concentrations were correlated with nest productivity measures (clutch size, hatching success, and nestling survival, and fledglings produced per nest). Of the 26 ash constituents evaluated, four (Se, Sr, Cu, and Hg) were significantly elevated in tissues potentially from the ash, and three (Se, Sr, and Cu) in tissues or in swallow diet items were weakly correlated to at least one nest‐productivity measure or egg weight. Tree swallow hatching success was significantly reduced by 12%, but fledgling production per nest was unaffected due to larger clutch sizes in the impacted than reference colonies. Bioconcentration from the ash to insects in the diet to tree swallow eggs appears to be low. Overall, adverse impacts of the ash on tree swallow reproduction were not observed, but monitoring is continuing to further ensure Se from the residual ash does not adversely affect tree swallow reproduction over time. Integr Environ Assess Manag © 2014 SETAC

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