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To assess organochlorine compound (OC) contamination, its possible sources, and adverse health impacts on giant pandas, we collected soil, bamboo, and panda fecal samples from the habitat and research center of the Qinling panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca qinlingensis)-the rarest recognized panda subspecies. The polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and organochlorine pesticides (OCPs) concentrations were comparatively low which suggests that moderate sources of OC pollution currently. OC levels were lower in samples from nature reserve than in those collected from pandas held in captivity, and OC levels within the reserve increased between functional areas in the order: core, buffer and experimental. The distribution patterns, and correlation analyses, combined with congener distributions suggested PCBs and OCPs originated from similar sources, were dispersed by similar processes, being transported through atmosphere and characterized by historical residues. Backward trajectory analyses results, and detected DRINs (aldrin, dieldrin, endrin and isodrin) both suggest long-range atmospheric transport of pollution source. PCBs pose potential cancer risk, and PCB 126 was the most notable toxicant as assessed be the high carcinogenic risk index. We provide data for health risk assessment that can guide the identification of priority congeners, and recommend a long-term monitoring plan. This study proposes an approach to ecotoxicological threats whereby giant pandas may be used as sentinel species for other threatened or endangered mammals. By highlighting the risks of long-distance transmission of pollutants, the study emphasizes the importance of transboundary cooperation to safeguard biodiversity.

Original publication




Journal article


Environ Pollut

Publication Date





Biodiversity conservation, Health risk assessment, Long-range atmospheric transport, Organochlorine pesticides (OCPs), Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)