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Otoliths and mussel shells as recorders of potential future pollution on a transect from Nuuk to the proposed Isua iron-mine


Project start
Project end
Type of project
Project theme
Marine ecosystems
Project topic
Climate research
Environmental science
Fish and shellfish

Fieldwork / Study

Fieldwork country
Fieldwork region
Greenland, South-West
Fieldwork location

Geolocation is 64.256715795614, -51.660804748535

Fieldwork start
Fieldwork end

Project details

Science / project plan

Fish and mussels have been used as bio-indicators of mining pollution in Greenland for decades due to their abilities to concentrate contaminants and reflect the water chemistry at the study sites. Until now, only the soft tissues have been used as these are relatively easy to prepare and analyze. However, the development of new analytical techniques such as LA-ICP-MS with the possibilities of analyzing solid materials with high spatial resolutions and low detection limits has allowed the otoliths of fish and mussel shells to be analyzed for contaminants (e.g. heavy metals) as well. As the fish and mussels grow, contaminants are built into the calcareous structures of the otoliths and shells and these therefore provide a unique record of the present and past water chemistry.

The aim of the project is to investigate the application of otoliths of fish and mussel shells as recorders of temporal variations in water chemistry and potential pollution from the proposed large-scale iron-mine at Isua in the Nuuk Fjord. At the the same time the study includes the pollution load around Nuuk needed for addressing cumulative assessment of antropogenic impact.  If applicable, the method will provide a valuable additional tool for environmental monitoring near Isua and likely also in the rest of Greenland.

Site. Godthåbsfjorden, Nuuk, Greenland

PI: Jens Søndergaard

Fieldwork summary / photo blog: Link to ARC photo blog