Lead from hunting activities and its potential environmental threat to wildlife in a protected wetland in Yucatan, Mexico

Ecotoxicol Environ Saf. 2014 Feb;100:251-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ecoenv.2013.11.002. Epub 2013 Nov 25.


This study provides insights into the status of lead in the protected wetland of El Palmar, located on the northwestern littoral of the Yucatan Peninsula. This reserve is ecologically and economically important because it provides feeding and breeding habitats for many species, as well as being an ecotourism destination (especially for bird watching). Although it is a protected area, duck species are heavily hunted within the reserve during the winter. As a result, animals feeding or living in sediments could be exposed to anthropogenic lead. Total lead and its geochemical fractionated forms were measured in sediment cores from six selected sites in "El Palmar" wetland, during pre- and post-hunting seasons, to approximate the potential environmental threat (especially for benthonic living/feeding organisms). Anthropogenic lead concentrations detected in soil cores ranged from below the minimum infaunal community effect level (30.24 μg g(-1)) during the pre-hunting season, to bordering the probable infaunal community effect level (112.18 μg g(-1)) during the post-hunting season, according to SquiiRTs NOAA guidelines. Yet, these results were lower than expected based on the intensity of hunting. Consequently, this article explores the possibility that the lower than expected lead concentration in sediments results from (1) degradation of shot and transformation to soluble or particulate forms; or (2) ingestion of lead shot by benthic and other lacustrine species living in the protected area. Geochemical fractionation of lead demonstrated that in the top 6 cm of the soil column at heavily active hunting sites (EP5 and EP6), lead was associated with the lithogenic fraction (average 45 percent) and with the organic fraction (average 20 percent). Bioavailable lead (sum of lead adsorbed to the carbonates, Fe/Mn oxyhydroxides and organic fractions) in sediments was lower than 50 percent for the heavily active hunting areas and higher for the rest of the sites. Multivariate analysis showed that the environmental chemistry, the physicochemical characteristics of the water, and the geochemical qualities of the sediments do not favor the release of lead into the water column. Thus, the direct consumption of lead shot by organisms feeding in sea grass or in the top 10 cm of sediment is perhaps the major process preventing lead from being deposited in sediments, and, as such, these species (e.g., flamingos and/or ducks) could be threatened by anthropogenic lead pollution.

Keywords: Anthropogenic lead potential threat; Lead; Mexico; Multivariate analysis; Sediments; Yucatan.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Conservation of Natural Resources*
  • Environmental Monitoring*
  • Geologic Sediments / chemistry*
  • Lead / analysis*
  • Mexico
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis*
  • Wetlands*


  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Lead