Ellasjøen, Bear Island - A mass balance study of a highly contaminated Arctic area

Updated 2000-10-24

In 1994, analyses of sediments and fish from Lake Ellasjøen on Bear Island revealed a surprising scenario. The analytical results indicated some of the highest values of the contaminants PCB and DDT in freshwater sediments and fish ever found in the Arctic. The 1994 results were based on limited amounts of samples. During 1996 and 1997 there were carried out new sampling and analyses of several samples. These results verify the results found in 1994. Since the POP-patterns found deviate considerably from the typical patterns expected for local contamination, no local source can be assumed to be responsible for the high POP values found. Thus, the questions that need to be addressed include the source of these contaminants, the transport pathways that deliver these contaminants to this site, total deposition and finally contaminant fate including biological uptake and effects. Previous investigations from the early 80’s on high volume air samples carried out at Bear Island revealed several long-range transport episodes from Eastern Europe. The overall objective of this project is to contribute significant new information to the understanding of contaminant pathways in the Arctic hydrosphere and to provide a better understanding of contaminant focusing in a sensitive polar environment. This will be accomplished through the development of a comprehensive mass balance study of the atmospheric loadings of PCBs and other contaminants to the Lake Ellasjøen watershed to determine the seasonal importance of atmospheric deposition on a remote polar island. Further, effort will be directed at assessing the relative importance of various source regions of contaminants to the island through an evaluation of contaminant signatures and back trajectories of pollution events.

This is not a National Implementation Plan (NIP) project

Time frame

Project time span
1999 - 2003
Data collection
1999 - 2003
Data processing
2000 - 2003
Data reporting
2001 - 2003

Contact information

Contact person
Trond Skotvold
Akvaplan-niva Polarmiljøsenteret 9296 Tromsø Norway
+47 777 50 300/ 50 319
+47 777 50 301
Other project contacts
Guttorm Christensen or Anita Evenset Akvaplan-niva Polarmiljøsenteret 9296 Tromsø Norway

Parameters and Media

Parameter groups measured/observed/modelled
Persistent organic pollutants (POPs)
Media sampled/studied/modelled
Freshwater sediments


Regions studied
Atmospheric TDC

Data availability

Are data archived or planned to be archived at an AMAP Thematic Data Centre?
Data centres
Atmospheric TDC
References to key publications (or planned publications) and data reports
Skotvold et al. Organic contaminants in the ecosystems of two high arctic lakes on Bear Island, Norway More coming
Samples/specimens archived in specimen banks?

Methods & Procedures

Procedures and methodology used for, e.g., sampling and sample storage, sample pretreatment, extraction and analysis, including which laboratories are involved, references to methods employed, etc.

Sampling: A high volume air sampler with filters and PUFs (polyurethane foam adsorbents) is run every week for 48 – 168 hours. Blind samples are taken every second month. A wet-only sampler collect rainwater throughout the summer season. A semipermeable membrane device (SPMD), i.e. a passive air sampler was installed for 14 months near lake Ellasjøen. Three fog samplers are mounted in the catchment area of Ellasjøen and one near the meteorological station on the northern part of Bear Island. Snow samplers are installed near Ellasjøen and near the meteorological station. One meltwater sampler is installed on each site. These samplers have also been active during the summer period collecting rainwater. To verify the difference in precipitation (rainfall) between different sites on Bear Island 15 rain gauges were located in the catchment area to Ellasjøen in 1999. These rain gauges are of Norwegian standard. An automatic weather station with a relative humidity sensor (type 3445) and a rainfall sensor (type 3064) are installed at Ellasjøen. The data are logged every hour during the winter season and every 10 minutes during the summer season. The data are stored in a storage unit (type 2990). In May 2000 we complemented the weather station with one visibility sensor and one more rainfall sensor. The visibility sensor (type 3544) measures the visibility in the range from 0 to 3000 meter. The new rainfall sensor (type 3864) was mounted on one of the fog samplers to get quantitative data on the amount of fog water collected during the “summer-period”. Storage: All samples are collected on specially precleaned equipment and sealed before storage. All samples are stored at Akvaplan-niva according to accredited routines (EN 45001). Laboratory: Norwegian Institute for Air Research (NILU)

QA/QC Information (what QA/QC procedures are implemented, laboratories involvment in QA/QC activities, model verification/validation routines, etc.)

NILU is accredited for analyses of "conventional POPs" accorfding to EN 45001. Analyses that are not accredited follow the same procedures as the accredited ones. NILU regularly participates in international laboratory performance studies (i.e. QASIMEME)

Additional Information

Is this a bi- AND multi-lateral project (i.e. a project involving cooperation between different countries)?
Other institutes involved in the project

Norwegian Institute for Air Research Norwegian Plar Institute Norwegian Meteorological Institute

Other related projects

Bear Island - Food chain studies: The key to designing monitoring programmes for Arctic islands

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