Contaminants in Polar Regions: Dynamic range of contaminants in polar marine ecosystems

Project Description
Short Title: COntaminants in POLar regions (COPOL)
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Contaminants have been detected both in the Antarctic Ecosystem (AAE) and in the Arctic Ecosystem (AE). It has been illustrated that in Polar Regions, concentrations of some semi-volatile contaminants may become elevated due to the cold-condensation effect. Global warming is also expected to alter contaminant dynamics and fate in polar regions although the magnitude and nature of these effects is difficult to predict. Because many of these contaminants, like organochlorines, exhibit toxicity and are persistent, they pose a risk to organisms that reside in Polar Regions. For the AE this has been shown, see for instance the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) in which some partners of the current consortium participated. For an assessment of the extent of contamination in the Polar Regions, and associated risks, information is needed on routes of transport to Polar Regions, fate of contaminants in Polar Regions and food web uptake and levels in biota, preferably combined with spatial and temporal trends. This EoI is a combined effort in order to assess this in a multi-disciplinary way, in an international consortium, focused on both Polar Regions. Within the EoI two research pillars are defined: 1) on the transport and fate of contaminants to and in Polar Regions, 2) on the food web transfer and contaminant status of higher organisms.

Research pillar 1: atmospheric transport, deposition and photochemistry à input to Polar Regions
In order to address the occurrence and routes of transport to Polar Regions, an international circumpolar network will be established to document contaminant deposition to terrestrial Arctic/Antarctic environments, using the moss/lichen monitoring approach and snow-sampling approaches coupled with passive POPs samplers. This network will build upon passive sampling devices in co-operation with the Global Atmospheric Passive Sampling (GAPS) Project, but also on in situ passive biomonitors (lichens and mosses). It builds on the work of the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) in advancing our understanding of spatial patterns of contaminant deposition in the Arctic, and adds an Antarctic module. It is linked to other IPY EoI's and full proposals like OASIS, GOA and ATMOPOL. The work will fill knowledge gaps defined by successful ongoing Arctic programs (Northern Contaminants Program and Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme) and contribute to development and validation of models used to predict contaminant transport and deposition.

Research pillar 2: food web transfer and risks
The focus of this initiative will be to document recent trends and derive conclusions on the nature of contaminant biotransport through diverse trophic level pathways of polar food web and to compare/contrast contaminant distributions and bioaccumulation for Antarctic and Arctic food webs. Integrated bipolar research, using similar methods, will be highly beneficial to both regions. The AAE has very little anthropogenic influence and may therefore act as reference for the AE, while for AE more toxicity data is available, which may be extrapolated to the Antarctic region. The following topics will be addressed: trophic magnification factors for predator-prey species in AAE and AE (food web transfer to birds and mammals, including ringed seals in the AE), comparison of compound patterns and levels in Antarctica with the Arctic, spatial and temporal trends between and within AAE and AE, emerging contaminants and toxicity assessment at lower trophic levels, especially for Antarctic species. Contaminants in combination with dietary descriptors (for instance stable isotopes) will be used as ecological markers to enhance the understanding of the polar marine food web and trophic relations, which account for the elevated level of contaminants at higher trophic levels. For the AAE, specific attention will be drawn to the role of stations in the local contamination of the environment.
The research will be designed such that the overall outcome of the project will be an integrated picture of new knowledge on routes and mode of transport to Polar Regions, and uptake and food web transfer in Polar Ecosystems. Integration of Arctic and Antarctic data will enable comparisons between the regions, but will also use the specific values of the data of the two regions (Antarctica being perhaps a better reference site, Arctic region with more toxicity data).