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CONTAMINANT PATHWAYS AND INTERACTIONS WITH MARINE ORGANISMS

Principal Investigator:
Carlos Vale

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

Costa S.T., Vale C., Raimundo J., Matias D., Botelho M.J. (2016). Changes of paralytic shellfish toxins in gills and digestive glands of the cockle Cerastoderma edule under post-bloom natural conditions. Chemosphere, 149: 351-357.

Mil-Homens M., Vale C., Brito P., Naughton F., Drago T., Anes B., Raimundo J., Schmidt S., Caetano M. (2016). Footprint of Roman and modern mining activities in a long sediment core from the Southern Iberian Peninsula. Science of Total Environment, 571: 1211–1221.

Raimundo J., Caetano M., Vale C., Coelho R., Mil-Homens M., Santos M.N. (2017). Searching relationships between tissue elemental concentrations and geographical distribution of bigeye tuna (Thunnus obesus) from the South Atlantic Ocean. Fisheries Science.com, 11: 64-70.

Reis A.T., Davidson C.M., Vale C., Pereira E. (2016). Overview and challenges of mercury fractionation and speciation in soils. Trends in Analytical Chemistry, 82: 109-117.

Tavares D.S., Lopes C.B., Daniel-da-Silva A.L., Vale C., Trindade T., Pereira M.E. (2016). Mercury in river, estuarine and seawaters – is it possible to decrease realist environmental concentrations in order to achieve environmental quality standards? Water Research, 106: 439-449.

Projects