Biological effects of contaminants on health of Arctic organisms- urgent needs and problems for the implementation of a monitoring programme

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Köhler, A. (2008): Biological effects of contaminants on health of Arctic organisms- urgent needs and problems for the implementation of a monitoring programme , 15th International Polar Symposium, 24-26th of October 2008. Seoul Incheon Technology Park, Korea .
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The Arctic is estimated to contain at least 25% of the worlds undiscovered petroleum resources (Ahlbrandt, 2002, AMAP, 2007). By 2010, annual volumes of 150 million tonnes of oil may be shipped by sea as a result of the development of oil production and transportation infrastructure in the Barents region alone (Frantzen and Bambulyak, 2003). For example, Shtockman gas deposit are estimated at 3.2 billion cubic metres of gas and 31 million tonnes of condensate. As energy consumption and air pollution are directly linked, any increase in oil and gas related activities is likely to result in increased pollutant emissions. Oil spills, whether from blowouts, pipeline leaks or shipping accidents, pose a tremendous risk to arctic ecosystems. These ecosystems are characterised by a short productive season, low temperatures, and limited sunlight. As a result, it can take many decades for them to recover from habitat disruption, sediment disturbance and not least oil spills. The problem is particularly acute in ice-infested waters. There are two major gaps of knowledge and available technologies to limit potential risks of population-wide impacts by oil spills and gas leakages: 1. Monitoring tools to detect detrimental effects of oil spills from various sources on health of marine arctic organisms. 2. Effective method for containing and cleaning up an oil spill in ice conditions. In this talk we will focus on monitoring strategies for oil pollution accidents as well as chronic long term exposure scenarios. These strategies are already implemented in the frame of the Oslo Paris Convention (OSPAR) for the North Sea and North East Atlantic and Mediterranean regions (UNEP, Barcelona Convention) and need to be transferred to Arctic organisms. What is needed to fill critical gaps of knowledge for the protection of the Arctic before gas and oil exploration and exploitation starts? With respect to selection of indicator organisms, test organisms should encompass key ecologically important species in food webs. Ideally contaminant body residues should be determined so that they can be linked to effects of biomagnification in the foodweb and related health effects. As acute effects biomarkers indicating contact of organisms to oil related chemicals, induction of detoxifying enzymes such as EROD activity, induction CP4501, GST activity, antioxidant enzymes: SOD, CAT, GPX and GR DT-diaphorase are suitable tools. As long term effects biomarkers, lipid peroxidation/oxidative stress, micronuclei formation as indication for genotoxic effects and histopathology including cancer diagnosis are recommended by the ICES Working Group of Biological Effects of Contaminants (OSPAR). Parallel to acute and long term biomarkers, the measurement of lysosomal membrane stability is advised as biomarker integrating effects on cell (mal)function by various classes of oil components sensitively reflecting the onset and progression of toxicant induced tissue pathologies. For the successful implementation of an Arctic monitoring programme, acquisition of data on seasonal biomarker/ bioresponse/detoxification patterns of pressure- and cold-adapted indicator species are essential as a baseline. Status quo determination of biomarkers response, biodiversity, body burden of PAHs and other chemicals as well as water and sediment contamination before oil and gas exploitation activity start is a prerequisite for correct scientific interpretation of pollution effects and legal claims against producers.

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