Mechanistic modelling for ecotoxicology and ecology

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DiTail - Marine Disposal of Mine Tailings: Impacts on Pelagic Ecosystem Components in
Norwegian Fjords

Research Council of Norway
Project leader
Nord University, Bodø, Norway (Prof. Dr. Pål A. Olsvik)


The DiTail research project will investigate the exposure and effects in the pelagic ecosystem in Norwegian fjords resulting from marine tailing disposal (MTD), addressing the thematic priority area in the MARINFORSK call: "Pollution and other effects on marine ecosystems: The mineral industry". There is an urgent need for improved knowledge about the spreading of minerals processing waste and associated chemicals, and their impact on ecosystems as a whole and on individual species and populations. DiTail addresses this need with the following research activities:
  • Investigation of potential lethal and sublethal effects of MTD on sensitive life stages of key species in Norwegian fjord ecosystems under relevant exposure scenarios.
  • Experimental assessment of effects on molecular and individual organisation levels.
  • Development of biological models of individual life-cycle energy budgets to infer effects of MTD on development, growth, and reproduction.
  • Assessment of flocculation potential of MTD and its effect on spreading of mining waste.
  • Development of models to simulate the physical processes of spreading and deposition of MTD in fjords.
  • Modelling the exposure and effects of egg and larvae bioparticles in a fjord system to infer risk in terms of reduced recruitment to local populations of the studied species.
The project focusses on impacts in the pelagic environment. However, the generated data and models will also provide information for tailing implications on the sea floor, and thus for effects on benthic ecosystems and impacts resulting from deep-sea mining.

My role

Using DEB-based models to identify the energetic processes targeted by the various components involved in marine tailing disposal (the physiological or metabolic mode of action). The effects of single components can subsequently be used in the model to make predictions for their combined effects. Comparing the predictions to the actual result from mixture toxicity testing will provide clear indications of whether interactions (either synergistic or antagonistic) should be considered for the joint effect. Ultimately, these effect models can be linked to the fate models, and serve as tools for prospective risk assessment, to predict potential impacts on species under various realistic exposure scenarios. The focus in this project is with copepods (Calanus finmarchicus) and fish eggs (Atlantic Cod, Gadus morhua). For C. finmarchicus, we depart from the model previously developed in the ENERGYBAR project, for the fish eggs we start with the work on snail eggs (Barsi et al., 2014; Jager et al., 2013).

The DiTail project brings together experts on DEB modelling and molecular techniques, offering an excellent opportunity to identify the mechanistic links between changes at the molecular level and changes to the abstract energetic fluxes in DEB models, and furthermore to changes in life-history traits over time. Establishing this linkage is especially interesting, as it may ultimately lead to accurate predictions for effects on individuals from a suite of simple biomarkers (see Jager & Hansen, 2013; Jager, 2016; Ashauer & Jager, 2018).

Output: Publications (as first or co-author)

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Output: Presentations (as presenter and as contributor)

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