Wildlife Toxicology: Emerging Contaminant and Biodiversity Issues follows another edited book on wildlife toxicology published in 1994. That book, Wildlife Toxicology and Population Modelling: Integrated Studies of Agroecosystems, was also edited by Ronald J. Kendall and Thomas E. Lacher. The present volume is designed to update, expand the scope of, and add new perspectives to biodiversity and emerging contaminants. The goal, as stated in the preface, was to integrate the broader issues of loss of biodiversity and global climate change to allow for better assessment of wildlife exposures to environmental contaminants. The result is a multiauthored volume of review articles on various topics. Lead editor Ronald J. Kendall is director of the Institute of Environmental and Human Health at Texas Tech University; two of the other three editors are also from Texas Tech, as are six of the nine lead authors, so it is almost an inhouse effort. After an introduction and overview chapter by Kendall, the topics covered are toxicology of munitions-related compounds; pesticides and biofuels; pesticides, contaminants, and disease; contaminant effects on biodiversity and ecosystems; carbon dioxide and climate change; statistical models; global perspectives and emerging issues; ecological risk assessment; and looking forward—the future of wildlife toxicology, again by Kendall.
Each of the chapters is a reasonable review of the topic at hand. I very much enjoyed the chapter on biodiversity and ecosystem function by Lacher and coauthors, which presents four interesting case studies of how contaminants have had effects at the population and ecosystem levels. From veterinary pharmaceuticals reducing ungulate-carrion-eating vultures in India to diclophenac and amphibian declines, from genetic and evolutionary changes in wildlife in Azerbaijan to agriculture and birds, these four case studies provide insight into events in parts of the world unfamiliar to many of us, places with less regulation of pesticides and toxic substances than we have here. Similarly, interesting insight is provided by the chapter on global perspectives, which presents information about contaminant threats to wildlife in different geographical regions, each region being covered by a different set of authors for a total of seventeen. It is frightening to learn about the excessive use of pesticides in developing countries that lack environmental regulation.
Describing the situation from the perspective of different continents seemed appropriate, but the inclusion of the ocean as a separate region to be covered in a few pages struck me as odd, since the organisms, exposures, and environment of the marine world are so totally different. I was also surprised by the emphasis on flame-retardant compounds (polybrominated diphenyl ethers) and the lack of discussion of metals such as mercury, which is a major pollutant to wildlife and threat to human health in a number of regions of the world as a result of mining and industrial activity. None of the chapters really deals with metal contamination. There are also some chapters that don't seem to fit together and that are not well integrated into a volume with such an encompassing title and lofty goal of integrating the broader issues of biodiversity loss and climate change.
After the book defines wildlife as “vertebrate animals,” and toxicology as “effects of toxic chemicals,” some chapters stray far from this focus. The article on munition-related compounds focuses on daphnia and soil invertebrates, and states that there has been little work done on birds and mammals—both major examples of “wildlife.” The chapter on pesticides and biofuels is about neither their toxic effects nor about wildlife. The chapter on contaminants and disease, one I looked forward to reading, is primarily an overview of infectious diseases of wild and domesticated animals, with a bit about activity and behavior of animals. Only a few pages are devoted to how contaminants can alter susceptibility to disease, which presumably should have been the major focus of a chapter in this particular book. I also looked forward to reading a chapter on climate change effects on wildlife toxicology (temperature increase and ocean acidification are likely to increase the toxicity of most chemicals); I was surprised, however, to find a chapter that might have been titled instead “Climate Change 101”—a general introduction to the issue that did not address wildlife toxicology at all. Although the chapter is a good overview of the topic, I find it hard to imagine that environmental professionals, the book's intended audience, would gain much from it. To try to cover causes of climate change and its effects in the marine and terrestrial environment is a task for multiple volumes of review articles. Lastly, the topic of most relevance in this book—the effects of climate change on wildlife toxicology—isn't covered at all.
Perhaps this book should have been given a different title. But even if it were, it would be hard to see the “glue” that holds this collection of papers together. In the final chapter, Kendall looks forward to a future with greater integration. And with that I can only agree.