Aarhus University Seal / Aarhus Universitets segl

Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP)

AMAP (Arctic Monitoring Assessment Programme) is one of the five working groups under the Arctic Council, which is an intergovernmental body consisting of eight countries with Arctic areas collaborating on Arctic issues. AMAP aims to monitor and assess pollutants and climate change in the Arctic region. AMAP produces assessments both on a scientific basis and for the Arctic governments, information material for the general public, and the associated researchers prepare a wide range of scientific publications.

Selected examples of results from studies related to AMAP

Perfluorooctansulfonic acid (PFOS)

In the early 2000s, the substance PFOS became a hot topic for many Arctic environmental researchers after the first reports on the rising concentrations in Arctic animals were published. PFOS belongs to the group of perfluorinated substances and is typically used when there is a need for a water and/or fat-repellent effect, e.g. in outdoor clothing (Gortex), shoes, Teflon pans or grease-repellent food packaging.

Studies of PFOS in ringed seals and polar bears in Greenland have shown that the concentration rose significantly up to 2005, after which it fell just as markedly in animals from both west and East Greenland. Presumably, the decline is mainly due to the fact that the production from the largest American producer, 3M, ceased in the year 2000.

Illustration polar bears
The time trend of the perfluorooctansulfonic acid substance (PFOS) in young polar bears from Ittoqqortoormiit, East Greenland, shows a significant peak in 2006.
Illustration ringed seals
The time trend of the perfluorooctansulfonic acid (PFOS) in young ringed seals from Qeqertarsuaq, West Greenland, shows a significant peak in 2005.

Identification of other risk substances

Regular analyses are carried out for substances in Greenlandic animals, where it is estimated that a risk may eventually develop to health in humans and animals in the Arctic, just as the well-known PCBS and DDT did a years ago.

One example is the flame inhibitor hexabromocyclododecane (HBCDD), where studies of the trend in concentration levels in Arctic animals have not given a clear answer. In Greenland's polar bears, the concentration in recent years seems to have declined after having increased up to 2015. In 2013, HBCDD was added to the Stockholm Convention's list of substances where production should be discontinued or restricted. Monitoring in the coming years will show whether this decreasing trend continues.

Illustration polar bears
The time trend of the flame inhibitor HBCDD in young polar bears from Ittoqqortoormiit, East Greenland, shows a decrease in recent years after a having increased over many years.
Illustration: Rune Dietz©
The ringed seal is one of the most important food sources in Greenland and in the Arctic as a whole. It is therefore an essential selected species for the AMAP's monitoring programme. In Greenland, up to 25 individuals are collected and examined every second year in Avanersuaq, Qeqertarssuaq and Ittoqqortootmiit as part of the AMAP Core programme sponsored by Dancea.
Photo: Rune Dietz©


AMAP was established in 1991.

In 1994, Denmark set up an environmental support scheme for the Arctic (Dancea, Danish Cooperation for Environment in the Arctic), which over the years has made it possible to conduct a number of studies that illustrate various environmental aspects of Greenland. Several of the department's academic staff have been involved in the AMAP work from the beginning, and we have carried out a large number of projects that have focused particularly on the topics:

  • Occurrence and development of long-distance transported pollutants in Greenlandic animals
  • Health effects of pollutants on animals placed in the upper part of the Arctic food chain, e.g. the polar bear
Since 1983, the polar bear has been the subject of detailed studies of environmentally harmful substances, including geographical and temporal trends. Since 1998, AU researchers have studied the effects linked to the high levels of these substances. These studies are the longest running and most thorough time trend series existing for the Arctic.
Photo: Rune Dietz©

Thus, we have studied the effects on seals, toothed whales and polar bears to examine how heavy metals and organic pollutants (POPs) affect the reproduction, immune system, bones and general health of these species. In addition, we use the results from the chemical analyses to assess the extent to which the local population is exposed to concentrations of these substances that are above the established international and national threshold values, through the local diet, particularly of seabirds, seals, toothed whales and polar bears. This is reported in AMAP Assessments and in numerous articles.

Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme
Link to external page


Frank Farsø Riget, Senior Researcher, Department of Bioscience - Marine Mammal Research

In the outlying regions, marine mammals, of which some are top predators with high concentrations of environmentally harmful substances, are an important part of the diet.
Photo: Rune Dietz©

AMAP regularly publishes international assessments in which our environmental researchers have participated  – often in a prominent role. The most recent examples are available at the following links:

Illustration: Rune Dietz©
Since orcas have been hunted and eaten in East Greenland since 2009, this species is studied globally. The results have shown that 10 out of 19 populations were threatened by extinction due to PCB. This information caused the Greenland health authorities to caution against eating this species.
Photo: Rune Dietz©