First Ever Microplastics Detected in the Näätämö Arctic River, Two Year Monitoring Mission Documents Urgent Changes

On the way to Näätämö

On the way to Näätämö

Snowchange has led the implementation of a large-scale monitoring mission in Russia, Finland and Norway Arctic regions from 2020 to 2021 -“Waters of Health”. It was funded by Nordic Environmental Finance Corporation – NEFCO (The Programme for Environment and Climate Co-operation-PECC). In partnership with the Arctic Passion Project, teams detected first ever microplastics presence in the Arctic river system of Näätämö and Lake Inari, as well as confirmed the large-scale proliferation of Pacific Pink Salmon in the region. Additionally climate change impacts detected using Indigenous knowledge were implemented.

Immerse yourself in the lake Lovozero views with this aerial video produced by the project teams.

Investigate the role of Pink Salmon and a large scale scientific study on its impacts to Ponoi River here.

Enjoy the Final Report of results here.

Look at how seas can fare better using Indigenous knowledge – a science paper from the teams

IMG_4707Locations of the project were: 

  • River Ponoi catchment and coastal Sosnovka in Murmansk region
  • River Näätämö catchment
  • Voronya River catchment
  • Lake Lovozero
  • Lake Vuonnijavr in the Murmansk region

Results in Short

We can see the impacts of climate change across the Näätämö, Vuonnijavr, Voronye and Ponoi systems, with some of the key messages being:

  • Microplastics team at work

    Microplastics team at work

    Atlantic salmon, a keystone species of the region, was observed to be smaller and less in numbers, especially in the Näätämö system and parts of Ponoi.

  • Changes to the cryosphere, i.e. snow and ice formation, quality and melt events continue. For example in November 2020 water temperatures above 10 °C normal were detected in Teno system, close to Näätämö in Finland. Emerging data from oral histories indicate that in 1920s Ponoi used to freeze in September, now the freeze-up can be delayed to November. All across Summer 2021 the temperatures over 25-30 °C were again documented in Näätämö river.  The winter sea temperature outside Sosnovka has risen and there has been no freeze-up in the sea for several years.
  • Droughts (despite big snow amounts in the previous winter) and algal blooms were observed in several parts of Ponoi. In Spring floods and ice dams were noticeable especially in Kanevka.
  • On the White Sea coast, navaga stocks were doing well and seemed to be thriving and according to Indigenous knowledge the fish operates in three-year-cycles. Lump fish was observed to dwindle.
  • Proliferation of Pink Salmon into Näätämö was observed and to be on the increase in 2021, with thousands of fish in the river. Norwegian authorities instigated measures to control the arriving populations, but mostly in vain.
  • Control fisheries for whitefish, lake Kirakkajärvi.

    Control fisheries for whitefish, lake Kirakkajärvi.

    Beluga whales are healthy and in large numbers on the White Sea coast.

  • Changes to bird populations especially on Ponoi were observed. Predator birds seemed to dwindle, except sea eagles ,whose population has increased.
  • Ecological baseline measurements of Arctic char, perch, salmon and sea trout was conducted on Näätämö.
  • First event microplastics surveys were conducted on river Näätämö as well as early measurement points on lake Inari.  This study shows that MPs are present in the freshwater bodies of northeastern Lapland. However, to study the numbers and types of MPs in detail, more samples should be collected during different seasons and weather conditions. The concentrations of MPs varied from 55 to 185 MPs/m

Below is a chart of the sampling locations summarized and amounts of microplastics detected. See the full report for details.




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