Why we do research

The PBMS is the only wildlife contaminant exposure monitoring programme that covers marine, freshwater and terrestrial habitats at a UK scale. Our work provides underpinning scientific evidence that informs national and international policy. 


The PBMS works with regulators and industry to try and minimise unintentional risk to wildlife from rodenticides used to control rats and house mice.


Barn owl www.fotosearch.co.uk © Westend61

Image of a barn owl

The PBMS tracks changes in environmental concentrations of toxic pollutants, such as mercury and brominated flame retardants, to monitor the effectiveness of international  mitigation efforts.


Gannet www.fotosearch.co.uk © Westend61


The PBMS measures the exposure and risk to wildlife to lead from lead shot and ammunition, thereby informing the work of Defra’s Lead Ammunition Group (LAG).


Red kite image from www.fotosearch.co.uk © Westend61


Samples collected by the PBMS have been used to study the population genetics of species such as the  golden eagle.


Golden eagle image from www.rspbimages.com © Chris Gomersall

Image of a golden eagle

Samples collected by the PBMS are used to monitor diseases in wildlife that can pass to humans, such as West Nile Virus.


Screenshot from bbc new website (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news)

Image of a news story about West Nile virus

Anticoagulant Rodenticides

The PBMS has demonstrated widespread exposure of predatory birds in Britain to second generation anticoagulant rodenticides (SGARs).  These compounds are used to control rodents, and predatory birds are exposed by eating contaminated prey. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Convention on Migratory Species has  recently highlighted  the risk from anticoagulant rodenticides to species of conservation concern.

We work with regulators (Health & Safety Executive’s Chemicals Regulation Directorate), statutory nature conservation bodies (Natural England), key industry groups (Campaign for Responsible Rodenticide Use) and NGOs, such as the RSPB.  Our monitoring provides the scientific evidence to evaluate the risk that SGARs pose to wildlife and the effect of national mitigation measures that may be required as part of product authorisation under the Biocidal Product Regulation (BPR, Regulation (EU) 528/2012).   The overall aim is to minimise inadvertent wildlife exposure while maintaining the efficacious rodent control needed to help maintain public health and the sustainability of agriculture.

Red kite RSPBimages.com © Chris Gomersall

Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)

The PBMS monitors a range of legacy and emerging persistent organic pollutants (PCBs, brominated and other flame retardants, fluorinated compounds, PAHs, etc) in predatory birds and their eggs. This provides scientific evidence of the effectiveness of the REACH directive (EC) No 1907/2006 and OSPAR  convention in controlling or banning emissions to the environment of harmful chemicals.

Gannets © RSPBimages.com

Mercury (Hg)

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) recently agreed the Minamata Convention on Mercury, a treaty to protect human health and the environment from the adverse effects of Hg.  An overarching aim of the convention is to control the anthropogenic releases of Hg to the environment. The PBMS, through monitoring Hg accumulation in sentinel wildlife species, is a key means by which the impact of the Minimata Convention can be assessed in Britain.

Power Station © RSPBimages.com

Lead (Pb)

PBMS monitoring has included measuring the exposure of wildlife to lead, and in particular assessing the potential risk from ingestion of lead shot and ammunition fragments.  This work provides underpinning data to inform the work of Defra’s Lead Ammunition Group (LAG) and assessment of poisoning risks to species of high conservation concern that are listed in the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Convention on Migratory Species.

Lead shot courtesy of Elizabeth Chadwick at Cardiff University Otter project

UK National Capability

The PBMS archives the tissues and eggs it collects as part of its NERC National Capability funding. The archive currently holds more than 35, 000 samples that date back to the late 1960s. The archive has been used to study chemical fate and behaviour, to trial new monitoring and for a wide range of conservation-related studies.

Retained samples courtesy of the PBMS

Links with other monitoring schemes

The PBMS is part of the NERC - initiated Wildlife Disease & Contaminant Monitoring Scheme (WILDCOMS http://www.wildcoms.org.uk). This network enhances interaction between all the major vertebrate disease and contaminant monitoring programmes in the UK, thereby providing a more integrated and comprehensive overview of disease and contaminant risk to UK wildlife. This will inform Defra’s “Health of the Environment” status reports.

The PBMS has also been working with other monitoring schemes across Europe through the EURAPMON network to enhance the ability of monitoring schemes from across Europe to exchange knowledge, data and best practice.

How can you help?

GDPR, Privacy Policy and Cookies

The PBMS website is provided by the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology under the terms of the UKCEH Privacy policy which sets out the basis on which any personal data we collect from you, or that you provide to us, will be processed by us. Information collected by the PBMS will be used for scientific purposes only under the GDPR lawful basis of Legitimate interests, not shared with any other party and retained for the duration of the project. Cookies may be set on your computer when you visit this site. What are Cookies?