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Transport via ocean currents of human pharmaceutical products and their impact on marine biota in the European Arctic.

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PHARMARINE sets out to assess transport vectors and fate of human pharmaceuticals via ocean currents from continental Europe to polar regions in the European Arctic. Potential aqueous pathways of drugs will be investigated at several locations along a northward transect going from the South (the Baltic Sea and the North Sea) through the Norwegian Coastal Current and warm North Atlantic Current to the Spitsbergen fjords (Hornsund and Kongsfjorden) in the North.

In addition, the potential of pharmaceuticals to accumulate in benthic macroinvertebrates will be unravelled in order to assess the contamination status of the Arctic fauna. Biomagnification of pharmaceuticals in the benthic food web will be also studied at one Arctic location employing stable nitrogen isotope ratio as an indicator of relative trophic position.

By exposing benthic and pelagic faunal species to selected pharmaceuticals at environmental and above-environmental concentrations under simulated cold Arctic conditions in a series of experiments, the harmful effects on animals will be quantified. Biological responses will be measured at different levels of biological organisation (from genes and cells to metabolic activity) using early-warning biomarkers such as DNA and proteins.

The results of the laboratory experiments will thus provide novel empirical information on biological impacts and threats pharmaceuticals currently pose on the Arctic marine ecosystem.

The main objective and the cutting-edge aspect of the project is to assess the aqueous transport vectors of pharmaceutical pollutants to the Arctic, their bioaccumulation and their effects on the Arctic marine biota. In order to meet this aim, the following specific objectives are put forward:

  1. assessing horizontal transport of human pharmaceuticals via ocean currents from mid-latitude areas to the European Arctic

  2. defining the pharmaceutical contamination status of the Arctic fauna

  3. determining responses of the Arctic animals to pharmaceuticals.

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