Heavy Metals and Pesticides

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The role of mangroves on the bioaccumulation and citogenotoxic effects of metals and pesticides on the food web of a sub-tropical coastal system

Research Team: 
Chan Shek Kiu (PI) | Karen Arano-Tagulao (co-PI) | Nora Tam (Team Member) | Eduardo Rocha (Team Member) | Patricia Teixeira Cardoso (Consultant). 

Mangrove ecosystems are unique habitats which offer a great variety of goods and services to the ecosystem and to the society. Unfortunately, they have been globally threatened by urbanization and industrialization which have triggered widespread overexploitation of the world’s mangrove forests despite their ecological and economic importance.

In South China, namely in Macao, the health and integrity of mangroves are aggravated due to substantial discharge of industrial sewage into the Pearl River Estuary (PRE) from the coastal cities. Among different types of pollutants in the sewage, trace metals are of special concern since alarming levels of cadmium, lead and zinc were annually discharged into the Pearl River, potentially causing far-reaching ramifications on human health and ecosystems.

Besides metals contamination, pollution by pesticides is of great concern because of their ability to cause, in a global scale and years ahead from the present, severe environmental, ecologic and health consequences.
Despite the numerous studies on phytoremediation, little attention has been to the role of mangroves on the bioaccumulation and citogenotoxic effects of metals and organic compounds on the food web and consequently on human health. So, the main objectives of this project are:
1) to do a spatial/seasonal characterization of the abiotic parameters as well as contaminants (metals and pesticides), the latter through a time-integrated passive sampling method, in mangrove vegetated versus non-vegetated areas;
2) to do an in situ characterization of the metals and pesticides levels at the biotic compartments along the food web (primary producers, primary consumers and predators) in mangrove vegetated versus non-vegetated areas;
3) to evaluate the in situ genotoxic effects and oxidative stress responses to contaminants exposure in vegetated versus non-vegetated areas;
4) to study the bioaccumulation and elimination kinetics and oxidative stress responses in the edible bivalve Geloina erosa to trace metals and pesticides exposure during a field transplant experiment.
Through the implementation of this project it is possible to better understand the role of mangroves on the protection of fauna and human health against these pollutants and establish possible management and conservation strategies.
Funded by FDCT, reference no. 117/2014/A3. Research Team: Chan Shek Kiu (PI, ISE/USJ), Karen Arano-Tagulao (co-PI, ISE/USJ), Patricia Teixeira (Consultant, CIIMAR, University of Porto), Nora Tam (Team member, City University of Hong Kong), Eduardo Rocha (Team Member, University of Porto)