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Keywords:

  • Biomagnification;
  • Migration;
  • Reproduction;
  • Age;
  • Lipid content

Abstract

Recent studies of arctic marine food webs have provided detailed insights regarding the biological and chemical factors that influence the bioaccumulation and trophic transfer of persistent organochlorine (OC) contaminants in aquatic systems. The present paper summarizes the recent literature with an emphasis on identifying important ecological factors for explaining variability of OC concentrations among organisms. The Arctic ecosystem has a number of unique attributes, including long food chains, reduced diversity of species, similar food webs across the entire region, and limited influence from pollution point sources. Lipid content, body size, age, gender, reproduction, habitat use, migration, biotransformation, seasonal changes in habitat conditions, feeding ecology, and trophic position have all been demonstrated to influence OC concentrations and bioaccumulation in arctic marine biota. The relative importance of each factor varies among OCs and organisms. Diet or trophic level is the dominant factor influencing OC concentrations and dynamics in seabirds and marine mammals, although biotransformation can significantly influence nonrecalcitrant OCs, such as hexachlorocyclohexane isomers. Dietary accumulation of OCs is also an important route of exposure for arctic fish and zooplankton, and biomagnification of OCs may also occur among these organisms. To date, only limited attempts have been made to model trophic transfer of OCs in the arctic marine food web. Although models developed to assess OC dynamics in aquatic food webs have included some biological variables (e.g., lipid content, feeding rate, diet composition, and growth rate), selection of processes included in these models as well as their mathematical solutions and parameterization all introduce simplification. This reduces biological validity of the models and may be particularly problematic in a highly seasonal environment, such as the Arctic Ocean.