Levels and spatial and temporal trends of contaminants in Greenland biota: an updated review.Sci Total Environ. 2004 Sep 20; 331(1-3):29-52.ST
Knowledge of contaminant levels in Greenland biota has increased substantially in recent years, particularly for persistent organic pollutants. This paper reviews and updates knowledge of spatial and temporal trends of Cd, Hg and organochlorines (PCBs, DDTs, HCHs, HCB and chlordane-related compounds) in Greenland terrestrial, freshwater and marine biota. The most comprehensive studies of spatial trends of Cd and Hg in the terrestrial ecosystem concern lichens, with relatively complete coverage, and caribou (Rangifer tarandus), with coverage mainly in different regions of central West Greenland and Southwest Greenland. The Arctic char (Salvelinus alpinus) is the only freshwater organism for which studies of spatial trends of Hg levels have been completed. Information on spatial trends of Cd and Hg in the marine environment is available from studies of fish, seabirds, ringed seals (Phoca hispida) and polar bears (Ursus maritimus). Geographical patterns of Cd and Hg in Greenland biota were not always consistent among different species or different studies. In landlocked Arctic char the concentrations of Hg decreased from south to north. In marine animals levels of Hg tended to be higher in East Greenland than in West Greenland and Cd levels were highest in biota from Disko Island in central West Greenland. The observed regional differences are difficult to explain but in most cases the causes appear to be natural rather than anthropogenic. Only a few time series covering the last 20 years exist for Cd and Hg. The one time series indicating a temporal change is for ringed seals in Northwest Greenland, which shows an increasing trend of Hg and a decreasing trend of Cd since 1984. Whether the changes reflect anthropogenic inputs, seal behaviour or other environmental factors is unknown. The most significant new insights have concerned organochlorines. In general, levels of these compounds were very low in terrestrial biota compared to marine species. Concentrations in landlocked Arctic char were highest in Southeast Greenland and lowest in Northwest and Northeast Greenland. Marine species from East Greenland had consistently higher levels of SigmaPCB, SigmaDDT and SigmaHCH than marine species from West Greenland. Very few data exist to evaluate temporal changes of organochlorine levels in Greenland biota, and this is the most significant knowledge gap at present. The most pronounced change observed was a decrease of 78% in SigmaPCB levels in polar bears from East Greenland from 1990 to 2000. Levels of SigmaHCH in shorthorn sculpins (Myoxocephalus scorpius) and seals from both central West Greenland and central East Greenland appear to have decreased since 1994. Increasing trends of SigmaDDT from 1994 until now were found in both sexes of seals as well as in male sculpins from central West Greenland.