DS0103 -

Impacts of Legacy and Emerging pollutants on arctic avian TOP predators – ILETOP

Submission summary

Under the combined effects of climate change and anthropogenic activities, the Arctic is threatened by rising risks of pollution. These pollutants could have major impacts on Arctic biodiversity and ecosystems as a whole and therefore raise high environmental concerns. In this context, the present research project (ILETOP) proposes to use inputs from different disciplines (ecotoxicology, environmental and analytical chemistry, spatial ecology, endocrinology, demography) and state-of-the-art technologies (biotelemetry, trace analyses of emerging pollutants, stable isotope and hormone analyses, telomere measurements) to perform an original and comprehensive study of the Arctic exposome (both organic and metal contaminants) and its subsequent effects on Arctic marine top predators. More specifically, ILETOP will investigate long-term changes of seabird contamination, seasonal exposure to pollutants, physiological and ecological impacts of pollutants and spatial differences by comparing two major Arctic regions: Greenland and Svalbard. Focusing on these two regions is of particular interest because they represent two of the main breeding regions for seabirds and because they are expected to be influenced by contrasting environmental pollution risks: Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) levels being higher in Svalbard than in Greenland, with the reverse pattern for mercury (Hg). Indeed, proposed investigations will include both legacy and emerging POPs (e.g. chlorinated pesticides, polychlorinated bisphenyls (PCBs), polybrominateddiphenylethers (PBDEs), novel brominated flame retardants (NBFRs) and polyfluoroalkyl (PFASs)), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), as well as mercury (Hg). While levels of legacy POPs have decreased over the last decades, yet they are still found in concentrations that can affect the Arctic biota, emerging POPs, PAHs and Hg are to date increasing in the Arctic simultaneously to the development of human industries and raise particular environmental concern. Studying seabirds in this context is essential as they represent a major component of Arctic marine ecosystems but are also extremely sensitive to pollution risks. Moreover, seabirds potentially function as powerful ecological indicators of marine food webs, there study thus providing information for the entire system. ILETOP will focus on three major Arctic seabird species breeding both in Svalbard and Greenland: the little auk (Alle alle), the black-legged kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla) and the long-tailed skua (Stercorarius longicaudus). Importantly, these species present different trophic ecologies (diet and feeding habitat) as well as contrasting migratory patterns. They will therefore provide new knowledge for different compartments of their ecosystem and for different breeding and non-breeding regions. ILETOP will be articulated around 5 tasks: (1) examine spatial variations of pollutant levels in arctic marine top predators. (2) Study long-term trends of pollutants levels in arctic marine top predators. (3) Determine hormonal and ecological effects of pollutants, at individual and population levels. This task will specifically investigate relationships between pollutants and seabird hormone levels, reproductive success, rate of ageing (telomere shortening) and survival. (4) Investigate seasonal contamination changes to understand how large-scale migration patterns and contrasting breeding and non-breeding distributions affect arctic marine top predators. To reach these objectives, ILETOP is designed as a collaborative project gathering five French institutes with complementary expertise (LIENSs, CEFE, CEBC, BIOGEOSCIENCES, EPOC) and their collaborative network from northern countries (e.g., NPI and NINA in Norway, Aarhus University in Denmark).

Project coordinator

Monsieur Paco Bustamante (UMR 7266 Laboratoire Littoral Environnement et Sociétés - Equipe "Réponses des Animaux MARins à la variabilité Environnementale")

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


CEBC-CNRS Centre d'Etudes Biologiques de Chizé
EPOC Environnements et Paléoenvironnements Océaniques et Continentaux
CEFE Centre d'Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive
LIENSs UMR 7266 Laboratoire Littoral Environnement et Sociétés - Equipe "Réponses des Animaux MARins à la variabilité Environnementale"
Biogéosciences UB Biogéosciences Université de Bourgogne
CEBC Centre d'Etudes Biologiques de Chizé

Help of the ANR 626,960 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: October 2016 - 48 Months

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