Contaminants enter marine environments from both diffuse (e.g. atmospheric fall-out) and pointl sources (e.g. estuaries, urban areas, industrial plants, aquaculture, oil spills, etc.), affecting marine ecosystem quality. Compounds including, priority pollutants, POP’s (persistent organic pollutants e.g. herbicides, nonylphenol), metals (e.g. copper and cadmium), and emerging contaminants, such as pharmaceuticals, personal care products, plastics and nano-particles, are the major threats. Pollution related ecosystem health related issues are often subtle with the subsequent impacts being more longer term with cumulative/delayed effects, rather than immediately causing mortality. Consequently potential chemical contaminant effects include longer-term bioaccumulative effects.
Marine contamination control is crucial in the light of the more recent European Directives on water quality assessment (EC 2000, 2008). In particular, Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) GES descriptors clearly require a shift in monitoring approaches from classical techniques based on determining chemical concentrations to more risk-based methodologies that integrate chemical data with biological results.
From a management perspective, persistent contaminants (pollution) may require decades to be removed. Further, chemical data “per se” can only provide partial information of the system. Understanding the effects (i.e. ecotoxicological test and ecological surveys) of exposure (i.e. chemical concentrations) is needed to determine risks due to chemicals, supporting the MSFD goals.
Further, only a minimal part of toxic compounds in the world (more than 295.000 compounds) is quantified in monitoring programs. The make the matter worse interactions among chemicals in a mixture can give unpredictable effects (i.e. additive, antagonistic, synergic). Also, different processes can alter pollutants bioavailability in the system.
The work in MEECE regarding pollution has focused on improving the knowledge base and modelling capabilities regarding these issues (D1.4; 1.6) and developing expert systems for decision support (D5.2), with less focus on management strategy evaluations of this partially unmanageable driver at short time scales.Fact sheet describing how MEECE science can support the Marine Strategy Framework Directive descriptor on Contamination