. Scientific Frontline: Chemical pollution threatens biodiversity

Friday, June 17, 2022

Chemical pollution threatens biodiversity

Chemicals threaten biodiversity - not only because they can directly poison animals and plants, but because they affect the living conditions and functions of living things.
Credit: Gabriel Sigmund & Aaron Kintz

Pollution of the environment with chemicals threatens biodiversity. The complexity of this pollution has so far been insufficiently recorded by decision-makers - this is what international researchers around Gabriel Sigmund from the University of Vienna and Ksenia Groh from the Eawag water research institute (Dübendorf, Switzerland) are writing in the current issue of the journal Science. They appeal to decision-makers and researchers to consider more chemicals than previously planned. Your contribution will appear shortly before the international negotiations on a new biodiversity agreement, the "post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework". These take place from the 21st. June in Nairobi (Kenya).

"Design to the agreement mentions chemical pollution, but it only takes nutrients, pesticides and plastic waste into account and falls short of it," explains environmental scientist Gabriel Sigmund. "Many highly problematic chemicals that pollute the environment and thus threaten the diversity of animal and plant species are simply overlooked," added ecotoxicologist Ksenia Groh. This does not do justice to the immense variety of man-made chemicals. So far not considered in the draft agreement, but from the perspective of the researchers toxic metals, industrial chemicals, chemicals from consumer goods, pharmaceuticals and the often-unknown conversion products of these chemicals are problematic.

Chemicals reduce the resistance of living things

The chemical pollutants have a direct and indirect effect on organisms in the environment and can thus contribute to the decline or even extinction of sensitive species. For example, the populations of orca whales off the coasts of Canada, Brazil, Japan and Gibraltar are threatened because they have high concentrations of industrial chemicals in their bodies. If plants and animals adapt to the chemical load, their genetic diversity can also be reduced. "If the genetic diversity of living beings decreases, then their resistance to stress factors such as global warming and other aspects of global change also decreases," warns Groh. "Such indirect effects of chemical pollution and countless other interactions with other substances that threaten biodiversity and ecosystems are ignored if the focus is on nutrients, pesticides and plastic," explains Sigmund, the environmental pollutants at the Center for Microbiology and Environmental Systems Science researched by the University of Vienna.

Researchers call for interdisciplinary efforts and political support

In the opinion of the researchers, joint efforts by interdisciplinary research teams are essential to record complex interactions. "Nevertheless, we believe that neither the scientific community nor the sponsors have recognized how explosive the topic and how necessary additional research is," Sigmund regrets. "But what you know so far justifies extending the measures under the Biodiversity Convention to a wider range of chemical pollutants," he emphasizes. The so-called "post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework" is a new strategic plan that is intended to guide international political decisions on biodiversity by 2030. It is negotiated in the context of the multilateral agreement on biological diversity - the "Convention on Biological Diversity". The decision-makers meet on 21. until the 26th. June for the next round of negotiations in Nairobi (Kenya).

Source/Credit: Universität Wien (University of Vienna)


Featured Article

Autism and ADHD are linked to disturbed gut flora very early in life

The researchers have found links between the gut flora in babies first year of life and future diagnoses. Photo Credit:  Cheryl Holt Disturb...

Top Viewed Articles