Anthropogenic Impacts on Svalbard

A big well done to Sheffield PhD student Krystyna Koziol for co-authoring a recent paper in the journal ‘Trends in Analytical Chemistry’ detailing the impact of anthropogenic pollutants identified on the Svalbard Archipelago.

The Svalbard archipelago has a special significance for glaciologists – it is the site of the world’s most northerly human settlement (the research base at Ny Alesund) and represents one of the more accessible and well managed research bases in the High-Arctic, despite being one of the more remote. It is set in a wonderfully serene and pristine Arctic fjord where whales, seals, and occasionally polar bear migrate, where scientists can take a short boat ride to the magical 80 degree line of latitude, and glaciers spill down valleys and calve dramatically into the water.

The famous polar bear sign in Longyearbyen - the gateway to Svalbard
The famous polar bear sign in Longyearbyen – the gateway to Svalbard

However, this paper by Kozak et al (2013) in Analytical Chemistry underlines the sad fact that the Svalbard archipelago may not be as pristine as it seems. Not only are the Svalbard glaciers thinning and receding at an alarming rate, anthropogenically derived pollutants are impacting upon ecosystem balance.

The Arctic is not only uniquely beautiful, it also has a predictive role for global environmental changes and provides an early warning regarding the ecological impact of toxic chemicals. Pollutants from distant sources are having a tangible impact upon the Svalbard archipelago – even pollutants which were emitted decades ago and have been kept in long term atmospheric suspension are still being deposited and impacting the rare and fragile local flora and fauna. Studies of Arctic pollutants such as Kozak et al’s (2013) are essential components of global environmental monitoring, and more papers like this will help us to better understand our impacts and how best to manage them in the future.

Further North - exploring the glaciated areas around Ny Alesund
Further North – exploring the glaciated areas around Ny Alesund


Kozak, K., Polkowska, Z., Ruman, M., Kozioł, K., Namieśnik, J. 2013. Analytical studies on the environmental state of the Svalbard archipelago provide a critical source of information about anthropogenic global impact. Trends in Analytical Chemistry, 50: 107 – 126


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