ID:41 Impact, source and quantities of pollutants on arctic ecosystems

22 February 2023 | 16:00 - 18:00 (GMT+1)

Open Session - HYBRID


Room: Hörsaal 3


Session Conveners:  Birgit Sattler (University of Innsbruck, Austria); Klemens Weisleitner (University of Innsbruck, Austria)


Session Description

Ice and snow trap and accumulate anthropogenic imprints since long periods of time. With the rise of temperature and subsequent melting, accumulated matter can be released in high amounts of (harming) substances into connecting water flows. Mountain waters are not solely irrecoverable lifelines but also connected to the overall cognition of pristine and healthy environments with flourishing tourism. Climate change, biodiversity, environment and tourism are strongly interrelated with each other. In these globalized times, these interrelations become even more important in remote areas such as Arctic and Antarctic regions. Additionally, the source for “burdens” in remote areas is mostly not of local origin but long-range dispersal which makes those environments even more vulnerable. When speaking of anthropogenic imprints, we can target following sources as representative impacts (in the knowledge of a broader variety thereof): microplastics, pesticides, artificial radionuclides, etc. Each of these categories have reached arctic ecosystems by now with still unforeseen impact. 



  • unfold_moreNorthern Barents Sea as an accumuation hot spot of marine litter in the Western Arctic

    Alexandra Ershova


    A complex survey held in frames of the Arctic Floating University project in 2021 and 2022 comprising the study of the Russian part of the Barents Sea and beyond showed in general a significant accumulation of plastic macrolitter on the coasts of Novaya Zemlya (Cape Zhelaniya and neighboring bays). Comparison with previous studies shows that the overall amount of litter here is growing. The coasts of the Barents Sea side of the archipelago have an order of magnitude higher amount of litter as compared to the Kara Sea side with the maximum amounts of over 1000 items per 100 meter beach strip at Cape Zhelaniya and over 2600 fragments per 100 m at Murmants Bay. Litter composition (over 30 % - fishing gear, over 50 % - cosmetic bottles and non-food packaging) and labels on the litter fragments (over 50 % - of European origin) show the origin of this litter – Russian, Norwegian, British and Danish vessels and ships that use Barents waters for fishing industry and cargo traffic. At the same time the theory of plastic waste transfer with the currents from the more distant North Atlantic is not supported. In general the accumulation of litter in the Northern Barents Sea is observed - on the northernmost shores of Novaya Zemlya in particular, with no propagation further to the Kara Sea. Litter is found even on the most remote and uninhabited islands of the Franz Jozef Land archipelago. The density of floating litter (5 items per of water surface on average) shows several accumulation spots near local convergence zones and along the heavily trafficked part of the North-East Passage (along the coast of the Novaya Zemlya).However, the composition of floating litter (plastic bags, plastic fragments) is not the same as on the nearby beaches which points out the different sources.

  • unfold_moreFate of Anthropogenic Particles in Arctic Waters

    Carolin Philipp1; Geir Wing Gabrielsen1; France Collard1; Katrine Husum1; Dorte Herzke2; Claudia Halsband3; Ingeborg G. Hallanger1
    1Norwegian Polar Institute; 2Norwegian Institute for Air Research; 3Akvaplan-niva


    Microplastics seem to be ubiquitous in the marine environment, even in the Arctic. Nevertheless, knowledge about pathways and the fate of those anthropogenic particles (APs) is still scarce. The limited access to this remote and harsh environment and the application of non-standardized collection and identification tools restrict the potential for a better understanding. To address this knowledge gap, a comprehensive water sample collection from nine locations around Svalbard, an archipelago in the European Arctic, was analyzed. This region is influenced by the Barents and Greenland Seas in addition to the Arctic Ocean. Water masses and ocean currents here are considered as marine transport ways of APs, besides the assumed air transfers by wind and snow. Additionally, the untreated wastewater effluxes from Longyearbyen, a settlement in Svalbard, are suggested to increase the burden of APs in this polar region. The examined replicates (N=58) were collected with a CTD cast at different depths (up to 1,430 m on the sea floor). An oleo-extraction approach was applied to extract APs (>50 µm), which were subsequently investigated by µRaman spectroscopy. In accordance, the presence of, e.g., polyamide, polyethylene, emulsifier, and paint components were confirmed. This study gives the first broad overview of the burden of APs in waters around Svalbard. Additionally, new information about particle accumulation and transfer in the Arctic water column is achieved. Moreover, the findings will be associated with previously acquired results and modelling approaches of fiber transport from a wastewater outlet from Longyearbyen.

  • unfold_moreEmerging organic contaminants in the Arctic: local sources, long-range environmental transport and impact of climate change

    Zhiyong Xie
    Helmholtz-Zentrum Hereon


    Along with the rapid increase in global population and the fast development of the economy and industry, varieties of synthetic organic chemicals have been introduced into the environment in large quantities. Sources and transport of organic contaminants from the continents to the marine environment have experienced significant changes as a result of intense anthropogenic activities and climate change during the past decades. In addition to classic persistent organic pollutants (POPs) listed on the Stockholm Convention, a number of organic chemicals have been detected in wastewater treatment plants, rivers, and the oceans as emerging organic contaminants (EOCs). This presentation displays the occurrences of EOCs in the marginal seas, the Atlantic Ocean and the Arctic, and illustrates their long-range environmental transport (LRET) processes via atmosphere and ocean currents from continental sources to polar regions. EOCs are most prevalent in coastal regions, but notable concentrations are also found in the Arctic and regions far from shore. Concentrations of selected EOCs have been systematically monitored in air and snow at Ny-Ålesund and showing precipitation with snow is a significant input source. Reemission of EOCs accumulated in glaciers, sea ice and snow may alter the concentrations and amplify their effects in polar regions. Thus, future research will need to understand the various biogeochemical and geophysical processes under climate change and anthropogenic pressures.

  • unfold_morePrevalence of antibiotic resistance in the high Arctic

    Akhil Prakash1; Tereza Hromádková2; Jabir Thajudeen3; Krishnan K P3; Mohamed Hatha A A1
    1Cochin University of Science and Techology; 2University of South Bohemia; 3National Center for Polar and Ocean Research


    Antibiotic resistance is one of the threats to modern medicine and it is a silent pandemic in the world. The main reason is the frequent use and misuse of antimicrobial drugs in the human healthcare systems and livestock management. The polar regions are also no different, as clinically important antibiotic resistance from the Arctic, including “superbugs”, which were resistant to almost all the antimicrobial drugs reported from there. Migratory birds have a significant role in the dissemination of antibiotic-resistant bacteria to pristine Arctic environments. Each year millions of birds are reaching the Arctic for breeding and foraging. In this study, the longest migratory bird, the arctic tern cloacal samples were collected from Longyearbyen, Svalbard in 2018 and their cloacal bacterial flora was analysed. The molecular analysis revealed Staphylococcus (21.5%), Aerococcus (19%), Alcaligenes (19%), Bacillus (14%), Micrococcus (13%), Enterococcus (6%) and Lysobacter (6%) as the major genera in the cloacal samples. Most of the bacterial isolates were resistant to the antibiotic ceftazidime followed by penicillin G, ampicillin and nalidixic acid. We have also studied the survival kinetic of allochthonous bacteria such as E.coli in the Arctic waters. This study revealed prolonged bacterial survival during Arctic fall. These survival capabilities allow the bacteria to persist in the Arctic and exchange antibiotic-resistant genes with other bacteria through horizontal gene transfer mechanisms.

  • unfold_moreOverview of plastic ingestion by fulmars in Svalbard over 25 years: what is next?

    France Collard1; Stine Benjaminsen1; Dorte Herzke2; Eirin Husabø3; Rupert Krapp1; Felix Tulatz1; Geir Wing Gabrielsen1
    1Norwegian Polar Institute; 2Norwegian Institute for Air Research; 3GRID-Arendal


    The northern fulmar, Fulmarus glacialis, has been investigated for decades in the North Sea region in the context of plastic pollution. Plastic burdens are high compared to other seabirds and the fulmar has consequently been defined as a bioindicator for plastic pollution in that region. In the Arctic, the fulmar is also ingesting plastic in high quantities. Here, we want to present all data on plastic ingestion by this species in Svalbard, where knowledge is poor. Fulmars were all collected in Svalbard and plastic larger than 1 mm were extracted in accordance with the OSPAR guidelines. Already back in 1997, fulmars had ingested large amounts of plastic with 10 (± 12 SD) plastic pieces found per bird, and a frequency of occurrence of 91%. Similar numbers and masses of plastic were found after investigation of fulmars collected in 2009. Our most recent data from birds collected in 2021 show higher numbers on average as 46 pieces (± 40 SD) were found per bird. When comparing all our datasets, similarities do occur and trends emerge. However, many parameters influence those results, such as the sampling location and the age class of the bird. Through this study, we want to support the need for a biomonitoring program in the Arctic and identify knowledge gaps for future research in Svalbard.

  • unfold_moreConcentration and tolerance of mercury in Arctic zooplankton

    Delove Asiedu1; Marja Koski1; Jens Søndergaard2; Torkel Gissel Nielsen1; Sigrun Jonasdottir1; Thomas Juul-Pedersen3
    1Technical University of Denmark; 2Aarhus University; 3Greenland Institute of Natural Resources


    Arctic marine ecosystems are vulnerable to Hg contamination due to melting of polar ice which traps Reactive Geasous Mercury. In response to climate-induced warming, Hg concentrations in Arctic marine ecosystems are thus expected to be altered.We investigated the total Hg (THg) concentration in lower trophic level marine organisms — plankton— of different size fractions (> 200, 50-200 and 50-20 µm) coarsely representing mesozooplankton, microzooplankton and phytoplankton, respectively, in the fjords and open sea transect along the West Coast of Greenland. Also, we investigated the LC50 of dominant arctic zooplankton species, C. glacialis, C. finmarchicus, Pseudocalanus sp., Oithona sp. and calanoid nauplii when exposed to Hg and CH3Hg.The lowest THg concentration (18 ± 3.51 ng/g dw) was observed in the > 200 size fraction and the highest concentration (25.5 ± 3.7 ng/g dw) in the size fraction of 50-200 µm, suggesting depuration of Hg in mesozooplankton. Also, planktonic organisms from fjord transects had significantly higher THg concentrations than those from the open sea. The 72 hour LC50 of Hg and CH3Hg decreased with decreasing prosome length and lipid content of dominant zooplankton species in the rank order of C. glacialis > C. finmarchicus > Pseudocalanus sp. > Oithona sp. > nauplii, with lower LC50 values for CH3Hg than for Hg. Our results demonstrate the presence of mercury in the lower trophic levels of the Arctic marine environment, and species-specific responses of zooplankton to Hg pollution.Since concentrations in higher trophic level organisms such as fish are likely to be dependent on those in the basis of the marine food web, it is necessary to understand the potential and mechanisms of bioaccumulation.

  • unfold_moreAre radionuclides a threat to glacial biota?

    Jakub Buda1; Krzysztof Zawierucha1; Olena Nahimova1; Piotr Klimaszyk1; Artur Trzebny1; Edyta Łokas2; Krzysztof Gorzkiewicz2; Roberto Ambrosini3; Andrea Franzetti4
    1Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan; 2Polish Academy of Sciences;; 3Università degli Studi di Milano; 4University of Milano - Bicocca


    Human activities have transferred pollutants to global ecosystems for a long time. One of the highest threats are radionuclides. The effects of high radioactivity on organisms are well known, but less is known about the response of organisms under low, chronic exposure to ionizing radiation in their natural environment. Since the relatively high activity of radionuclides was found on glaciers, exceeding values in glacier adjacent areas, they are good models for studying the effects of chronic exposure on biota. Cs), (c) the relation of radioisotopes with organic matter content in the sediment and the biomass of key cryoconite organisms (cyanobacteria), as well as the rate of uptake to apex consumers (tardigrades). Finally, analysis of microbial community patterns, based on V4 16S and V9 18S V9 rDNA amplicon sequencing and apex consumers densities along with the intra- and interglacial variation in radioactivity let to validate the assessed potential effects of artificial radionuclides on glacial organisms.137Pb, 210Am) activity concentrations, (b) assessment of the bioavailability of the most concentrated radionuclides (241Pu, 238-240Cs, 137Pb, 210We assessed the effects of radionuclides on glacial biota in cryoconite (a consortium of organisms and minerals on the glacier’s surface) samples collected from Alpine glaciers. Our study was divided into the following steps: (a) measurements of the radionuclides (