Pollution Processes in Terrestrial and Coastal Ecosystems

Home Departments Group Environmental Chemistry Pollution Processes in Terrestrial and Coastal Ecosystems

This research line is focussed on the study of the dynamics of organic pollutants in terrestrial aquatic environments and coastal areas, including the role of the atmosphere in the transport of pollutants. The target compounds are persistent organic pollutants such as semivolatile organochlorinated compounds or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or commonly used pesticides such as organophosphorous or organonitrogen compounds. Important efforts are devoted to sample and analyze these compounds in different environmental compartments belonging to the same ecosystems, considering their distribution between main interfaces such as soil-air, air-water-sediment, water-organisms, and air-vegetation. These efforts are aimed to determine the physical-chemical processes that regulate their transport, accumulation and transformation in the ecosystems under study. The ultimate aim would be to ascertain the transport and accumulation mechanisms of these pollutants and their potential toxic effects on organisms, including humans.
Substantial work of this research line has been performed in high mountain remote zones from Europe (Alps, Pyrenees, Tatras), Africa (Teide) and America (Andes). River ecosystems, namely the Ebro Basin, have also been studied. The high mountain studies have been reported in a large number of publications in the leading scientific literature and have been supported by EU funding since 1993. Concerning fluvial systems, the studies have allowed the identification of a relevant pollutant case in Flix water reservoir that is located in the Ebro River Basin. The large social impact of this work has resulted in the development of a specific remediation plan by the Spanish Ministry of Environment and Generalitat of Catalonia.
In relation with the atmospheric studies, specific work has been performed on urban and industrial environments and for the assessment of pollutant transport to remote sites. This work has allowed confirming the relevance of atmospheric inputs in remote ecosystems and the mechanisms by which some of these compounds are accumulated in the cold areas of the planet. The urban studies have also included volatile organic compounds (VOC), particularly tropospheric ozone precursors such as benzene, toluene, xylenes, and aliphatic hydrocarbons, e.g. isopentane, pentane, hexane, heptane, among others.



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