Human fatprints in the Arctic snow

Anthropogenic pollution of the Arctic atmosphere is of great interest due to the vulnerability of the Arctic ecosystems, as well as the processes of global transport and industries under cold climate conditions. Researchers from Lomonosov State University (Moscow) and Lomonosov Northern (Arctic) Federal University brought the first results on snow pollution in the least explored Arctic spot – Franz Joseph Land archipelago.

The study throws light upon chemical composition of Arctic snow examining the levels of anthropogenic pollution in one of the least populated places in the world. As the land’s population is only a small number of military workers, environmental impact should be very little. However, global pollution may influence the ecological situation of the place.

To figure out the levels and reasons of pollution in Franz Joseph Land, the researchers collected the snow samples and analysed them by the elements. They compared the findings with the global ‘classic’ pollutants to understand their impact on the local ecology.

The results showed that almost none of the known priority pollutants (except three insignificant sub-elements) were identified. Although this fact may be treated as good news, the reason of such result may be a limited sampling as only 2 out of 192 islands of the archipelago were explored.

Furthermore, non-targeted screening revealed a specific class of biomarkers – fatty amides. Their origin may be natural sources, like vegetation, or anthropogenic ones, including biomass burning or plastics. While this is to be a subject for a further research, the concern about human impacts to the land cannot be underestimated.

Fig. 1. Franz Joseph Land with the marks of the sampling sites at Heiss (3,4,6–10) and Hooker Islands (5).

Original source: Mazur, D. M., Latkin, T. B., Kosyakov, D. S., Kozhevnikov, A. Y., Ul’yanovskii, N. V., Kirilov, A. G., & Lebedev, A. T. (2020). Arctic snow pollution: A GC-HRMS case study of Franz Joseph Land archipelago. Environmental Pollution, 114885.

Link: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envpol.2020.114885

Front photo: Naturetrek

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