Impact of man-made pollutants in Antarctica
The Institute of Environmental Diagnosis and Water Studies (IDAEA-CSIC), together with the Institute of Marine Sciences (ICM-CSIC), the Institute of General Organic Chemistry (IQOG-CSIC) and the University of Vigo begin today the ANTOM-II expedition in the Southern Ocean to analyze the impact of emerging pollutants and semi-volatile organic compounds of human origin. The expedition departs from Ushuaia (Argentina), to the Bellinghausen Sea, in Antarctica, in the Oceanographic Research Vessel “Hesperides”. For a month, the research team will focus on analyzing the potential of Antarctic marine microorganisms to degrade these contaminants of human origin.
“We want to know what effects organic matter of human origin has on the microbial communities of Antarctica and evaluate the ability of bacteria to degrade these contaminants.”, explains the IDAEA-CSIC researcher and project coordinator, Jordi Dachs.
Researchers from the IDAEA, ICM, IQOG and the University of Vigo will take samples of water and air from the Southern Ocean to analyze anthropogenic contamination
This project is a continuation of the study that began in December 2020, when the ANTOM-I expedition departed from Vigo to Punta Arenas (Chile), and collected air and water samples in the Atlantic Ocean to determine how chemical contaminants were transported to the Southern Ocean.
“The general objective of ANTOM is to quantify the atmospheric inputs of emerging organic pollutants and anthropogenic organic matter in the Southern Ocean, and to study their biogeochemical relevance.”, explains the IQOG-CSIC researcher and co-IP of the project, Begoña Jiménez.
For her part, the teacher and researcher Cristina Sobrino, from the UVigo Department of Ecology and Animal Biology, points out that the three participants from the Vigo academic institution “We are responsible for the study of these compounds of human origin on the abundance, composition and metabolism of phytoplankton. These results are very important since phytoplankton, despite their small size, constitute the base of the marine food chain and are an active part of the global carbon cycle, capturing atmospheric CO2 and thus contributing to the regulation of the planet’s climate.”, details Nephew.
In this sense, the ICM-CSIC researchers Silvia G. Acinas and Marta Royo add that “This campaign will allow us to build a genome catalog of polar archaea and bacteria from Antarctica, in addition to investigating the metabolisms associated with the degradation capacity of different pollutants and their dispersion in the global ocean”.
On the other hand, ICM-CSIC researchers Andrea G. Bravo and Isabel Sanz Sáez will study the concentrations and transformations of different chemical forms of mercury with the aim of quantifying the formation of Methylmercury, the chemical form that accumulates in food chains, while Massimo Pernice, also from the ICM-CSIC, will measure the abundances of the microorganisms that are part of the plankton.
The results obtained from this project will help to understand the effects of pollution of human origin in Antarctic ecosystems. The anthropogenic chemical footprint determined in this area is a reflection of the lifestyle of today’s society and this project will show the extent and impact of pollution in remote areas.
18 January 2022