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CONTAMINANT PATHWAYS AND INTERACTIONS WITH MARINE ORGANISMS

Principal Investigator:
Miguel Caetano

The work of this research team is focused on contaminants, including the assessment of concentrations in various matrixes, fluxes, accumulation in marine organisms, partitioning at organs and tissues of key organisms, and responses at biochemical level. Investigations include various types of contaminants, either present naturally in the environment, meaning that background and man-induced values are searched, and man-made molecules such as organic compounds used in the agriculture and pharmaceutics. A key question is whether the pathway of contaminants and their interactions with the organisms is influenced by climatic changes including modification of physical and chemical parameters, such as temperature, UV-radiation, solubility of CO2 in seawater, shift on diversity of marine species in response to temperature rise, intensity and frequency of storm events related to precipitation and erosion of the cost line, and migration of human population. The great concern of these issues is mirrored by the alert produced by international panels of experts. 

Work is focused on contaminants measured in the field and simulations performed in the laboratory. To remove classical and emergent contaminants from contaminated water graphene based nanocomposites, natural bio wastes, and algae-based biotechnologies are tested. Better water quality, recovery of elements with high economic or strategic value, and revalorisation are searched. Bioaccumulation studies and responses to the stress caused by contaminants are studied. For example, health risk assessment is investigated by measuring trace elements in fish and seafood at various steps such as cooking procedure, bio-accessibility of during digestion and absorption by intestinal tissue. Metabolic transformation and effects of toxins naturally produced by marine phytoplankton species in harvest bivalves is currently investigated. By multidisciplinary approach, the assessment of cytotoxic, genotoxic and epigenetic effects resulting from exposure of organisms and cell lines to mixtures of classical and emergent contaminants is performed. The fate of contaminants in estuarine and marine systems and the interactions with sediments are searched. An example is the reconstruction of past environments. In general, research projects and research under contract are the driving forces for the activities of this group.

Publications Highlights

Lopes, C., Bastos L., Caetano M., Martins I., Santos M.M., Iglesias I. (2019). Development of physical modelling tools in support of risk scenarios: a new framework focused on deep-sea mining. Science of the Total Environment 650:2294-2306.   

Barboza, L., Lopes, C., Oliveira, P., Bessa, F., Otero, V., Henriques, B., Raimundo, J., Caetano, M., Vale, C., Guilhermino, L. (2019). Microplastics in wild fish from North East Atlantic Ocean and its potential for causing neurotoxic effects, lipid oxidative damage, and human health risks associated with ingestion exposure. Science of the Total Environment. 717:134625  

Monteiro, R., Costa, S., Coppola, F., Freitas, R., Vale, C., Pereira, E. (2019). Toxicity beyond accumulation of Titanium after exposure of Mytilus galloprovincialis to spiked seawater. Environmental Pollution 244:845-854. 

Botelho, M.J., Vale, C., Ferreira, J. (2019). Seasonal and multi-annual trends of bivalve toxicity by PSTs in Portuguese marine waters. Science of the Total Environment 664:1095-1106. 

Almeida, J., Cardoso, C., Tavares, D., Freitas, R., Trindade, T., Vale, C., Pereira, E. (2019). Chromium removal from contaminated waters using nanomaterials – A review. TrAC - Trends in Analytical Chemistry 118:277-291. 

Projects