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‘Statement from Berlin’ on safeguarding polar regions against pollutants.


Researchers here regularly take samples in the polar regions. Credit: Hereon/Zhyiong Xie

The polar regions are exposed to an increasing load of pollutants. Under the leadership of Helmholtz-Zentrum Hereon and the Umweltbundesamt (UBA), experts from the European Commission, the Stockholm Convention, the Arctic Council, the Antarctic Conference, environmental sample banks, data centers and leading research institutions have now drafted the Berlin Statement. The recommendations resulting from the work were recently published in the journal chemical envelope.

Environmental crises are affecting even the most remote corners of the Earth. For example, the polar regions are heavily polluted with long-lived pollutants. These may be familiar chemicals, but more and more previously overlooked substances are being added. The authors of the Berlin Statement stress, as a result of their international workshop, that countermeasures by various actors are necessary to effectively reduce the pollution caused.

Therefore, the researchers surrounding Professor Ralph Ebbinghaus, head of the Heron Institute for Coastal Environmental Chemistry, put together ten recommendations for action and gave them suggestions for concrete implementation. The Berlin Statement aims to strengthen examination, monitoring, risk assessment, research collaboration and open data exchange to better protect the Arctic environment. The consensus reached at the workshop can be summed up in two words: “Act now!”


1. Raise awareness of the problem among politicians and the public

Climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution are interlinked and together pose a particularly severe threat to ecosystems in the polar regions. To raise awareness of the problems facing the remote polar regions, informational and educational projects must draw the attention of citizens. The precautionary principle and strategies to monitor, mitigate and eliminate pollution must take indigenous and traditional knowledge into account.

2. Applying the precautionary principle

The precautionary principle is an approach that enables early decisions to be made to protect the Arctic and Antarctic environment, eg, actionable measures based on instrumental surveys at the national and international levels that include levels of toxicity, longevity and environmental mobility, individually or in combination.

3. Improve communication

To derive action from knowledge, there is a need for effective communication and communication between relevant actors and stakeholders. This will allow a more targeted treatment of research questions needed by national and international stakeholders (eg, European Commission, European Chemicals Agency, Stockholm Convention).

4. Better use of monitoring data

With nearly 350,000 chemicals recorded, prioritization is important if a potential threat to polar ecosystems is to come into focus. International regulatory standards should be used for this, especially longevity and range. It is important that coordinated data on incidence in both poles be regularly collected and published.

5. Updating the polar regions protection models

The number of pollutants is increasing rapidly. This raises the question of whether current approaches to the assessment and management of chemicals are still up to date. Problematically, contaminants are increasingly being detected that were not expected at the poles according to previous assessments. Currently, more than 800 materials are considered to be of “potential Arctic interest”.

6. Expand and align monitoring

While monitoring in the Arctic is being established through national and regional programmes, this has not yet happened in the Antarctic, and systematic sampling and data collection needs to be developed. For the Arctic, there is a growing need to investigate emissions of local pollutants, such as oil and gas extraction, mining and industry, military installations, municipal infrastructure, transportation, research station operations, large-scale fisheries, tourism, and settlements.

7. Develop innovative examination programs

In addition to classical targeted chemical analysis, new methods are available that can be used to further develop pollutant monitoring. In addition to broad chemical screening, these primarily include new modeling approaches for impact assessment and machine learning to identify substances that cause new problems.

8. Develop environmental sample banks

Environmental sample banks are national institutions that develop and implement formal programs and standardized protocols for the collection, processing, and archiving of environmental samples for future research. Their sample archives provide opportunities for retrospective viewing and assessment of temporal and geographic changes in exposure to chemicals over the past several decades. In the Arctic, pollution programs are already being systematically supported by environmental sample banks; This is also an urgent need for Antarctica.

9. Ensure open access to data

Data can already be accessed today from individual data platforms established on specific topics or can be found in scientific reports or articles. However, there is a lack of centralized, comprehensive and open access to data on pollutants at the poles. Overall, compared to the Arctic, there are large data gaps in Antarctica that need to be filled.

10. Create digital platforms

Digital storage of results from previously surveyed samples in long-term accessible repositories and virtual environmental sample banks offers new opportunities for post-data analysis as new methods or insights into contaminants in polar regions emerge.

more information:
Ralf Ebinghaus et al, Berlin Statement on Old and Emerging Pollutants in the Polar Regions, chemical envelope (2023). DOI: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2023.138530

Provided by the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centers

the quote: ‘Berlin Statement’ for the Protection of Polar Regions from Pollutants (2023, April 19) Retrieved April 19, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-04-berlin-statement-polar-regions-pollutants.html

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