The concentration and biomagnification of PCBs and PBDEs across four trophic levels in a marine food web

Alethea S. Madgett*, Kyari Yates, Lynda Webster, Craig McKenzie, Andrew Brownlow, Colin F. Moffat

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
5 Downloads (Pure)


Contracting Parties to the OSPAR Convention for the Protection of the Maine Environment of the North-East Atlantic are required to undertake monitoring and assessment of both inorganic and organic contaminants. There is a requirement to assess contaminants across different trophic levels on an ecosystem-specific basis. However, this is currently constrained by the availability of relevant samples to cover the full range of trophic levels. This study investigates the variability (inter- and intra-species variation) of the concentrations and distributions of thirty-two polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) congeners and nine polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) congeners in twenty-six species covering four trophic levels from different geographic locations around Scotland. Trophic magnification factors (TMFs) were calculated using a traditional method and a balanced method for both the ICES-7 PCBs and BDE47, to refine and improve the application of TMFs to assess and predict biomagnification risk to biota in the marine environment. There were clear differences in congener percentage distribution between sample categories and species, with differences influenced by physiological processes and eco-biological parameters. Trophic magnification was found to occur for the ICES-7 PCBs and BDE47 using the traditional method, with the highest degree of trophic magnification reported for CB52. An unbalanced dataset was found to influence the calculated TMF and in some cases, the overall conclusion of the trophic transfer of PCB and PBDE congeners. The balanced method is highly recommended for calculating TMFs to ensure that the TMF is a true indication of the biomagnification potential, particularly when conducting regional comparisons for which sampling requirements are difficult to achieve.

Original languageEnglish
Article number119752
Number of pages18
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
Early online date21 Jul 2022
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sept 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank Eric Dalgarno, Judith Scurfield and Jean-Pierre Lacaze at Marine Scotland Science for providing training and analytical assistance; staff and crews of MRV Scotia, MRV Alba na Mara and MRV Temora for assistance with sample collection; Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme (SMASS) for provision of marine mammal samples; Stephen Warnes for the microstructure examination of otoliths; and Anneka Madgett for illustration design. This work was funded by the Scottish Government , UK and Robert Gordon University , Aberdeen, UK.


  • Assessment
  • Biomagnification
  • Contaminants
  • Persistent organic pollutants
  • Scotland
  • Trophic magnification factor


Dive into the research topics of 'The concentration and biomagnification of PCBs and PBDEs across four trophic levels in a marine food web'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this