Contaminants in polar regions

COPOL is a project under the auspices of the International Polar Year (IPY). The main objective of the project is to understand the dynamic range of man-made contaminants in marine ecosystems of Polar Regions, in order to better predict how possible future climate change will be reflected in levels and effects at higher trophic levels. This aim will be addressed by 4 integrated work packages covering the scopes of 1) food web contaminant exposure and flux, 2) transfer to higher trophic levels and potential effects, 3) chemical analyses and screening, 4) synthesis and integration. The COPOL project focuses on the Arctic region, and the main effort is concentrated in Kongsfjorden (Spitzbergen). This fjord has been identified as particularly suitable as a study site of contaminants processes, due to the remoteness of sources, and for influences of climatic changes, due to the documented relation between Atlantic water influx and the climatic index North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). Variable Atlantic water influx will not only influence abiotic contaminant exposure, but also food web structure, food quality and energy pathways, as different water masses carry different phyto- and zooplankton assemblages. This may affect the flux of contaminants through the food web to high trophic level predators such as seabirds and seals, due to altered food quality and energy pathways. Three field campaigns were conducted in 2007 (spring, summer and autumn), collecting sea water, sediments, and organisms ranging from plankton and benthic invertebrates, to fish and sea birds. Field campaigns are also scheduled for the summer of 2008 and 2009.