Ornithology working group

Coordination Team:

  • Renato Gaban-Lima, Ph.D. (General Coordinator of Ornithology Working Team, Ornithologist at the Federal University of Alagoas, the Institute of Biological Sciences and Health and the Natural History Museum)
  • Vivian da Silva Santos, Ph.D. (Coordinator of Bioaccumulation of heavy/toxic metals in biological organisms, Pharmaceutics at the University of Brasília- Ceilândia (FCE-UNB))
  • Martha Argel, Ph.D. (Ornithologist, writer and independent consultant)
  • Angélica M. K. Uejima, Ph.D. (Ornithologist, Federal University of Pernambuco)
  • Carlos Gussoni, Ph.D. (State University of São Paulo – Rio Claro)
  • Fernanda Alves, M.Sc. (Ornithologist)
  • Giulyana Althmann Benedicto, Post-doc (Ornithologist and independent consultant


History of the creation of this working team (WT)

The WT in Ornithology was initially planned by Prof. Dr. Roberto Gaban-Lima, one of the founders of GIAIA, which was formally constituted on 11/11/2015 by ornithologists who wanted get involved with the events following Samarco’s tailings dam tragedy.

In the first conference held by the coordination team, Gaban-Lima presented some ideas, which were discussed and refined by the whole team. The first evaluation defined two approaches for the Studies of the Environmental Impacts of Samarco’s disaster (Vale and BHP) by the ornithology group.


Hereinafter, there is a brief description and the initial activities to perform this proposal as defined by the WT.

Approach 1: accumulation of heavy and/or toxic metals in birds affected by the tailings from Samarco’s mining (Vale and BHP). Due to the potential accumulation of contaminants in the mud which flowed out the Rio Doce, especially of toxic metals as indicated in previous analysis done by a third party, Dr. Gaban-Lima aims to run across the affected areas and collect samples of birds impacted by the tailings from the mining activities. The bioaccumulation of these heavy/toxic metals in life organisms can reduce their survival due to behavior changes, occurrence of reproductive disorders, immunosuppression, and morphological abnormalities or can be lethal. Thus, one of the goals with this work is to measure the bioaccumulation of these elements in the birds, ranging from the estuary to the affected areas. We will measure the presence of aluminum (Al), antimony (Sb), arsenic (As), barium (Ba), Cadmium (Cd), lead (Pb), iron (Fe), lithium (Li), magnesium (Mg), manganese (Mn), mercury (Hg), nickel (Ni), rubidium (Rd), selenium (Se), silver (Ag), strontium (Sr), uranium (U), vanadium (V), and zinc (Zn).

Many of these metals have been already measured in preliminary analyses of the tailings mud as shown in the press, supporting the relevance of evaluating the bioaccumulation of these metals since they are bioavailable and possibly bioaccumulate and biomagnify when they are spread in the ecosystem.

In order to guide the sampling process, the WT defined prioritized species of waders, aquatic and necrophagous birds such as dotterels, whimbrels, herons and vultures.

In previous meeting, a collaboration has been established with Dr. Vivian da Silva, one of the coordinators of this WT, from University of Brasília, who has offered to help harvesting and performing quantitative analyses to measure bioaccumulation of heavy/toxic metals in the birds. She has the equipment, reagents and specialized human resources to perform this work.

Considering that we do not have samples collected before the disaster, the sampled species in the Rio Doce should be compared to those in the estuary of other rivers in the Brazilian coast and which show similar features as those of Rio Doce estuary.

Approach 2: Impact of the disaster on the Rio Doce Avifauna

To collect documents and evaluate the impact of this disaster on the biodiversity of the birds of Rio Doce, this WT defined different work fronts.

The first one is compiling the list of birds already registered along with information related to preferable habitats of each species, the conservation status, patterns of distribution seeking for evaluation of endemism levels, as well as registered points along the watershed. This task was attributed to Carlos Gussoni, Fernanda Alves e Giulyana Althmann Benedicto and, at the earliest opportunity; the WT will announce the list of Rio Doce birds. This list should capture the attention of the public and should inform about threatened, endemic, migratory species of birds and whether species are clearly affected by the changes resulting of the disaster.

The second work front was allocated to Martha Argel, who is responsible to establish a relationship between collaborative capacities and intended approaches.

Besides, a third work front will proceed during sample collection performed for Approach 1 and was attributed to Renato Gaban-Lima, who will perform visual analyses and photographic documentation of the river environment, aiming to determine sample areas and protocols for harvesting qualitative and quantitative data to measure the impact of this disaster on the avifauna.