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The Anthropocene in the northern Baltic Sea – the case of contaminated fiberbanks and implications for sustainable development
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Earth Sciences, Department of Earth Sciences, Natural Resources and Sustainable Development. Geological Survey of Sweden.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-6444-3968
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Earth Sciences, Department of Earth Sciences, Natural Resources and Sustainable Development.
Division of Marine Environment, Geological Survey of Sweden (SGU).
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Earth Sciences, Department of Earth Sciences, Natural Resources and Sustainable Development.
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The epoch of humankind, the Anthropocene, is usually characterized by the global gaze, which places its focus on global environmental phenomena i.e. global warming and ocean acidification. In this article we argue that the Anthropocene could be better understood with a cross-scalar perspective and present the case of anthropogenic contaminated “fiberbanks” as an example. We present a geological example of the Anthropocene in a Swedish river estuary in the northern Baltic Sea, which hosted nine P&P mills along its’ shores and received large amounts of metal containing wastewater during the 20th century. As a result of the great acceleration and an increased national and global demand for pulp and paper products these fiberbanks formed in shallow waters. As artificial seabed features these thick deposits of contaminated organic-rich material negatively affect the adjacent aquatic environment. By constructing a chemostratigraphy based on sediment cores from accumulation areas and a metal pollution index we show how the aquatic system has recovered from metal pollution. We note, however, that the established stratigraphy fails to identify the fiberbanks, which remain in the shallow zones and are contaminant hotspots. In Sweden, there is an insufficient knowledge of contaminated sediments for a sustainable water and marine management. This knowledge gap in combination with human induced climate changes that may chemically and physically affect sediments and thus, alter dispersion of imbedded pollutants, results in poor understanding and long-term perception of the risks of contaminant dispersion from fiberbanks. We claim that these gaps of knowledge must be filled in order to reach an effective conservation at the same time as a sustainable blue growth in the northern Baltic Sea.

Keywords [en]
Anthropocene, fiberbanks, pulp and paper industry, chemostratigraphy, water and marine management, sustainable development
National Category
Geosciences, Multidisciplinary
Research subject
Natural Resources and Sustainable Development
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-427736OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-427736DiVA, id: diva2:1508595
Available from: 2020-12-10 Created: 2020-12-10 Last updated: 2020-12-10
In thesis
1. Contaminated organic sediments of anthropogenic origin: impact on coastal environments
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Contaminated organic sediments of anthropogenic origin: impact on coastal environments
2021 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The Baltic Sea is negatively affected by legacy pollutants such as metals and persistent organic pollutants (POPs) that are known to have adverse effects on living organisms, including, humans and were banned decades ago. This thesis addresses the dispersal of these pollutants from heavily contaminated, cellulose-rich sediments of industrial origin in the Ångermanälven river estuary in northern Sweden. Relatively thick deposits, known as fiberbanks, in the studied area derive from historical wastewater emissions from the pulp and paper industry (P&PI) that began in the 19th century. These fiberbanks formed on shallow seabeds, where they currently remain. In addition, extensive areas of the deeper seabed are covered by fiber-rich sediments. The fiberbanks contain higher levels of pollutants than the fiber-rich sediments and the sediments less affected by P&PI emissions, and the fiberbank concentrations may be of ecotoxicological concern. Metals and POPs were found to be strongly partitioned to organic material and partitioning coefficients were higher in fiberbanks that contain elevated levels of organic matter. Metals and POPs were detectable in sampled pore water, even if low sediment-water fluxes of metals were expected. Metal contaminant concentrations in sampled bottom water were measured before and after resuspension of underlying sediments, which showed that concentrations of particle bound metals dominated over dissolved forms. One out of three studied fiberbank sites was covered with a natural capping layer that probably shields the water column from metals in the deposit underneath. Studies of geological archives in the form of sediment cores show the rise and fall of an anthropogenic industrial era and the recovery of an aquatic system, but the established chemostratigraphy fails to reveal the current hotspots (fiberbanks) that will stay for decades to come. The potential impacts of climate change and isostatic land uplift are factors that complicate the long-term risk assessment of fiberbanks. These knowledge gaps combined with the lack of a common risk assessment strategy for contaminated sediments hinder the achievement of national quality objectives (NQOs) and fulfillment of Agenda 2030 goals. Fiberbanks resulted from an accelerating global demand for paper products and hence, the issue of these artificial seabed forms is an example of how the geological epoch of humankind, the Anthropocene, can be viewed in a cross-scalar perspective and be important in the management of a sustainable future in the Baltic Sea region.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2021. p. 76
Series
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Science and Technology, ISSN 1651-6214 ; 1997
Keywords
Fiberbank, fiber-rich sediment, metals, persistent organic pollutants, pore water, bottom water, dispersal, sorption, pulp and paper, chemostratigraphy, Anthropocene
National Category
Other Earth and Related Environmental Sciences
Research subject
Natural Resources and Sustainable Development
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-427739 (URN)978-91-513-1094-7 (ISBN)
Public defence
2021-02-12, Hambergssalen, Villavägen 16, Uppsala, 09:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Funder
Swedish Research Council Formas, 214-2014-63The Geological Survey of Sweden (SGU), 362-1493/2013The Geological Survey of Sweden (SGU), 411-1578/2013
Available from: 2021-01-22 Created: 2020-12-10 Last updated: 2021-03-04

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