The influence of global climate change on organic pollutants in Arctic food webs

A recent study makes an interesting retrospective on this delicate topic, and warns of the risks involved

by Lorenzo Ciotti
The influence of global climate change on organic pollutants in Arctic food webs

The influence of global climate change on accumulation and toxicity of persistent organic pollutants and chemicals of emerging concern in Arctic food webs, study published on the Environmental science Processes & impacts, makes an interesting retrospective on this delicate topic, and warns about the risks they run.

The researchers say: "This review summarizes current understanding of how climate change-driven physical and ecological processes influence the levels of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and contaminants of emerging Arctic concern (CEACs) in Arctic biota and food webs.

The review also highlights how climate change may interact with other stressors to impact contaminant toxicity, and the utility of modeling and newer research tools in closing knowledge gaps on climate change-contaminant interactions.Permafrost thaw is influencing the concentrations of POPs in freshwater ecosystems.

Physical climate parameters, including climate oscillation indices, precipitation, water salinity, sea ice age, and sea ice quality show statistical associations with POPs concentrations in multiple Arctic biota.Northward range-shifting species can act as biovectors for POPs and CEACs into Arctic marine food webs.Shifts in trophic position can alter POPs concentrations in populations of Arctic species.

Reductions in body condition are associated with increases in levels of POPs in some biota. Although collectively understudied, multiple stressors, including contaminants and climate change, may act to cumulatively impact some populations of Arctic biota.

Models are useful for predicting the net result of various contrasting climate-driven processes on POP and CEAC exposures; however, for some parameters, especially food web changes, insufficient data exists with which to populate such models.

In addition to the impact of global regulations on POP levels in Arctic biota, this review demonstrates that there are various direct and indirect mechanisms by which climate change can influence contaminant exposure, accumulation, and effects; therefore, it is important to attribute POP variations to the actual contributing factors to inform future regulations and policies.

To do so, a broad range of habitats, species, and processes must be considered for a thorough understanding and interpretation of the consequences to the distribution, accumulation, and effects of environmental contaminants.

Given the complex interactions between climate change, contaminants, and ecosystems, it is important to plan for long-term, integrated pan-Arctic monitoring of key biota and ecosystems, and to collect ancillary data, including information on climate-related parameters, local meteorology , ecology, and physiology, and when possible, behavior, when carrying out research on POPs and CEACs in biota and food webs of the Arctic."