Aarhus University Seal / Aarhus Universitets segl


ecotoxicology and trends

Over the past decades, our research has revealed that certain human and wildlife populations have alarmingly high body burdens of environmental contaminants. Associated with this elevated exposure to hazardous contaminants is a long list of potential health effects, including important immune, endocrine and reproductive functions. Crucial to the understanding of contaminant exposure and effects in humans and wildlife is the study of source, transport and fate of contaminants in the environment and biota. This has been the cornerstone of the research in our group over the past decades. We have several major projects as well as many smaller student projects aimed at understanding where contaminants come from, how they reach the Arctic, how and why they bioaccumulate and transform in humans and wildlife, and, finally, what are the effects on health. Two of the bigger ongoing projects are Bonus BaltHealth and AMAP.


Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme

Over the years, we have studied geographical and temporal trends in selected key predators in the Arctic environment and been involved in conducting the assessment reports and articles under the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP). These assessments include aspects of source, transport and fate of important contaminants such as mercury, legacy persistent organic pollutants (POPs) as well as new and emerging contaminants of concern. Being aware that trophic interactions are an important pathway of contaminant transfer, we increasingly focus on reconstructing individual feeding habits using stable isotope mixing models as well as placement within their larger ecological network, i.e. inter-species and food web, especially in the North West and North East Water polynyas.  Using contaminant data from varied projects, we have developed unique risk assessment approaches using physiologically based pharmacokinetic modelling. These models are used to convert exposure levels to potential health hazards, thus providing a quantitative estimate of risk many different environmental contaminants. Our contaminant work also opens up many avenues for direct studies of contaminant effects, including wildlife health assessment, novel in vitro experiments and individual and population effect modelling. Read more about AMAP visit  www.AMAP.no.

AMAP Assessment 2018: Biological Effects of Contaminants on Arctic Wildlife and Fish.

Key messages
Key messages
Technical report
Technical report


In 2017, the BONUS BALTHEALTH project was initiated, led by our section with collaborators in Denmark, Sweden, Germany and Finland, to perform a multilevel health impact assessment of key Baltic species. This novel assessment will combine multiple stressors, focusing on the interaction of anthropogenic hazardous substances with other stressors such as trophic ecology, climate change and zoonoses. The Baltic has some of the highest contaminant loads worldwide, and research has shown the consequences in terms of severe detrimental health effects in local wildlife. For example, environmental contaminants caused large scale reproductive failures of entire seal populations leading to reduced population sizes.

Similarly to Baltic seals, several top predatory bird species have experienced severe population impacts and have up to present day not recovered to their expected carrying capacity. We therefore also participate in projects studying the synergistic population health effects of multiple stressors, such as chronic contaminant exposure, global climate change and changes in trophic ecology, in key subarctic bird of prey species such as the white-tailed eagle and tawny owl, read more about BALTHEALTH.