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Effects of global change on the emission, fate, effects and risks of chemicals in aquatic ecosystems

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ECORISK2050 (Effects of global change on the emission, fate, effects and risks of chemicals in aquatic ecosystems)

Reporting period: 2018-10-10 to 2020-10-09

By 2050, the world population will reach nine billion people and three quarters of the global population will live in cities. The development path to 2050 will be marked by shifts in land-use and weather patterns, and by changes in the way water and food resources are obtained and managed all over the world. These global changes (GCs) will affect the emissions, environmental transport pathways and fate of chemicals, and thus affect the exposure of the natural environment to chemicals. Future changes may also alter the sensitivity of ecosystems to chemical exposure. The coupled training goals and research objectives of the ECORISK2050 project are:
Firstly, to assess how the inputs of chemicals from agriculture and urban environments and their fate and transport are affected by different environmental conditions, including those of specific EU regions, and how this will change under GC scenarios in order to assess the likely increase in chemical risks to human and ecosystem health.
Secondly, to identify potential adaptation and mitigation strategies that can be implemented in the short and medium term, to abate unacceptable changes in risks, and use the GC scenarios to propose robust implementation pathways.
And lastly to develop a set of tools for use by industry and policy makers, that allow the impacts of a range of GC related drivers on chemicals risks to be assessed and managed.
Scenarios: The emission scenarios for chemicals were developed to understand how future emissions of chemicals will change for pharmaceuticals and pesticides. First the historic chemical emissions were used to determine empirical relationships between socio-economic drivers and emissions of chemicals. Then Shared Socio-economic Pathways from the IMAGE Integrated assessment model was used to develop empirical emission models for ibuprofen, diclofenac (pharmaceuticals) and terbuthylazine (pesticide) for 2050. Next to that, a literature review and on the prioritization of chemicals in urban environments has been performed. Information on chemical pollution in multiple cities were gathered and defined which chemicals were the most toxic to human health and the environment.

Exposure: A literature review of how chemical fate will be impacted by predicted changes in environmental conditions by year 2050 and beyond has been conducted. The first experiments are investigating how temperature effects the biodegradation of a mixture of pharmaceutical compounds in different types of freshwater sediment. In addition, a literature review on co-existence of pharmaceuticals and microplastics in agricultural soils was performed. Preliminary experiments were conducted to investigate sorption of pharmaceuticals on microplastics and how microplastics affect the movement of pharmaceuticals in soils. Next to that, a preliminary risk assessment from upstream industrial chemical spills to the microorganisms utilized within the wastewater treatment process has been developed. Also a preliminary literature review of the impacts of global change on chemical fate, transport, and exposure was conducted.

Effect: We developed a transportable temperature and heatwave control engine (TENTACLE) to manipulate and record temperature simultaneously in indoor and outdoor aquatic micro- and mesocosms. So far, TENTACLE was successfully applied in the first indoor microcosm experiment and outdoor experiment with mesocosms in the Netherlands. An extensive literature search to inform a review about the experimental and modelling assessments of combined effects of temperature and chemicals in freshwater systems was conducted. For calibration and validation purposes of a modelling tool to assess chemical effects under different temperatures, multiple experiments have been conducted. The first toxicokinetic-toxicodynamic model has been calibrated successfully.

Risks and Mitigation: We work on predicting environmental concentrations of pharmaceuticals in freshwater environments from sales data. Next to that, a first article has been finalized in which EU regulations of chemicals has been reviewed and provide suggestions on how these can be improved in order to protect the environment better.
Scenarios: Combined climate/land use/agronomic management scenarios will be developed for selected case study regions in the future. Using case-study urban systems located in Northern, Central and Southern regions alongside existing usage data and models and projections of future change, we will then develop emission scenarios for different chemical classes for the current situation and for 2050. Challenges of pest pressure and chemical inputs will be identified in regard to farming options in the future broken down to farm level (bottom-up approach), involving partners in the field of operational pest monitoring and warning.

Exposure: We will develop and parameterise modelling frameworks for estimating concentrations of chemicals in surface waters and drinking water and in associated food items (crops, fish and shellfish) in the future. We will explore the effects of key environmental change parameters on the sorption, persistence, uptake and metabolism ofcompounds in aquatic and soil systems. Experimental work will also explore the fate and behaviour of chemicals in water re-use systems, and use this to develop crop uptake and exposure models for wastewater re-use systems. Additionally, we will develop an exposure modelling framework for estimating exposure concentrations of emerging contaminants in river basins, drinking water for current and future conditions.

Effects: Experimental research into the effects of chemicals on aquatic populations and communities will be performed by selecting relevant combination of stress factors, and ecological models will be developed, parameterized and validated. Experimentally, we will assess how different climate-related factors affect aquatic communities to future chemical contamination. Also, a set of modelling tools will be developed to assess the influence of GC on ecosystem function and structure and its interaction with chemical stress at different levels of biological organization.

Risks and Mitigation: The risk of emerging chemicals from agricultural and urban sources will be assessed, separately and in mixtures, under current and future scenarios. A probabilistic modelling approach (Bayesian network – BN) will be applied to integrate the risk assessments with future global change scenarios, as well as with effects of mitigation measures. While the general modelling approach will be applicable for all results from ECORISK2050, specific models will be adapted risk assessment for geographic regions and specific chemical types (pesticides, urban chemicals) and for assessment of mitigation measures and backcasting.

Impacts: ECORISK2050 brings together experts from academia, industry and government agencies from across Europe. ECORISK2050 will deliver high quality training and research products that will resonate at several levels: 1) At the level of the individual researchers; 2) Within the network of ECORISK2050 partner organizations; 3) At the European level by impacting National and European policies, and 4) at the Global level by producing a cohort of highly trained risk assessment specialists and by generating novel cutting edge science to improve risk assessment and management of water resources.
Schematic overview showing the Work Packages and ESR projects included in ECORISK2050