Biological health status in Adventfjorden, as a recipient of human waste including ground food remains (Biohealth Adventfjorden)

Adventfjorden receives untreated waste from the expanding population of Longyearbyen - from households, industry, the airport, schools as well as the research park and hotels. We will sample and analyse the environmental impacts around the sewage pipe to assess whether the increasing discharges still are within the carrying capacity of the fjord.

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  • field work
  • long-term monitoring
  • education and outreach


  • marine biology

Project Keywords

  • human dimensions / environmental impacts / environmental assessments
  • human dimensions / environmental governance/management / water management
  • human dimensions / environmental impacts / sewage disposal

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The population of Longyearbyen is expanding and the increase in overnight stays is leading to concerns as to possible negative impacts on the natural environment in the area (and beyond). Sewage is released untreated into the fjord and in addition the relatively recent installation of food waste grinders has increased the total amount of organic input into the fjord. Previous studies have shown only moderate effects from the discharges, but since the move of the sewage pipe in 2008 (and the co-occurring increase in discharges) one negatively impacted area was shown in 2016. The dataset from that study are not sufficient to determine whether the impacts are increasing with time, nor what the spatial extent of the affected is. If negative effects are increasing over time, there will come a point where they are not sustainable and remedial measures will have to be applied. Our rationale is that such measures will be easier to implement, as well as less extensive (and expensive) if any negative impacts are detected before the carrying capacity of the fjord is exceeded. We will sample bottom sediments at 8-10 stations at strategic locations in Adventfjorden and analyse these for faunal community structure, according to accredited standard methodology. These analyses are well-established as an indicator of environmental health conditions in the marine environment and act as an early warning of negative developments. If negative impacts are left to develop, the sea floor can become low in oxygen and cause a range of cascade effects throughout the local ecosystem. Together with human impacts, the environment is changing in Adventfjorden and the Isfjordcomplex (as almost everywhere else around Svalbard). Climate change is changing the sedimentation patterns in the fjord and new species are arriving as the area becomes increasingly "Atlantic". Of particular concern is the snow crab, which is expected to colonise the Isfjorden complex. These crabs have sea-floor fauna as their main diet and can remove a considerable biomass. Sea floor organisms, or benthic fauna, act in the same way as earthworms in cultivated soil, keeping the upper layers oxygenated and contributing to the recycling of nutrients, which in turn play an important role at the base of the food web. In addition to biological sampling and analyses we will take additional samples and preserve them, for future analyses of contaminant content as well as microplastics in sediment and sea-floor biota. We will communicate our results in various ways, from popular-scientific presentations for locals and tour operators as well as age-appropriate interactive role-plays for children and school pupils. A full scientific report will be made and the results will contribute to scientific publication. Populasjonsveksten og økende overnattingsdøgn i Longyearbyen har ført til bekymringer om negative konsekvenser for naturmiljøet. I tillegg foregår vesentlige klimaendringer, for eksempel en vesentlig reduksjon i vinterisdekke i fjordsystemene. Dette fører til vesentlige endringer i vannmassene samt sedimentering fra breer og elver, noe som kan påvirke resipientenes egenskaper.

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