Impacts of Pharmaceuticals on Terrestrial Wildlife
Published:27 Aug 2015
Essentially ubiquitous in our environment, residues of human and veterinary pharmaceuticals somewhat paradoxically represent an emerging and increasing risk to wild biota. Whilst in recent years a great deal of analytical effort has been expended to quantify the presence of many pharmaceutical contaminants, especially in freshwater systems, our real understanding of the risks posed to most clades of wildlife, aquatic and terrestrial alike, still lags behind. In particular, relevant field-based studies regarding possible chronic impacts in higher terrestrial wildlife (birds, mammals, reptiles, etc.) remain all too scarce. Yet, for example, over the past two decades Old World Gyps vultures on the Indian subcontinent have been virtually extirpated due to non-target exposure to a single synthetic pharmaceutical compound, diclofenac (a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug). Here, we highlight and discuss the myriad possible exposure routes to terrestrial wildlife, consider the analytical and monitoring approaches that are already in use or that could be used in future research, and reflect upon a selection of legislative approaches currently being applied to identified terrestrial impacts. Finally, with the ultimate aim of encouraging further applied ecotoxicology-based research in this emerging field, we highlight several priorities for future inquiry, with special emphasis on non-target effects in previously overlooked but potentially vulnerable or highly representative clades of wildlife exposed within environmentally relevant, real-world scenarios.