The effects of global change on biodiversity and ecosystem functioning encompass multiple complex dynamic processes. Climate change and exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are currently regarded as two of the most serious anthropogenic threats to biodiversity and ecosystems. We should, therefore, be especially concerned about the possible effects of EDCs on the ability of Arctic marine mammals and seabirds to adapt to environmental alterations caused by climate change. Relationships between various organochlorine compounds, necessary such as polychlorinated biphenyls, dichlorophenyldichloroethylene, hexachlorobenzene, and oxychlordane, and hormones in Arctic mammals and seabirds imply that these chemicals pose a threat to endocrine systems of these animals. The most pronounced relationships have been reported with the thyroid hormone system, but effects are also seen in sex steroid hormones and cortisol. Even though behavioral and morphological effects of persistent organic pollutants are consistent with endocrine disruption, no direct evidence exists for such relationships. Because different endocrine systems are important for enabling animals to respond adequately to environmental stress, EDCs may interfere with adaptations to increased stress situations. Such interacting effects are likely related to adaptive responses regulated by the thyroid, sex steroid, and glucocorticosteroid systems.
Section for Contaminants, Effects and Marine Mammals, Department of Arctic Environment, National Environmental Research Institute, University of Aarhus, Frederiksborgvej 399, PO Box 358, DK-4000 Roskilde, Denmark. email@example.com
The effects of persistent organic pollutants on renal and liver morphology in farmed arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus) were studied under experimental conditions. Control animals received a diet containing pork (Sus scrofa) fat with low amounts of persistent organic pollutants, while the diet of the exposed animals contained whale blubber, 'naturally' contaminated with persistent organic pollutants. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) and organochlorine pesticide (OCP) concentrations in the whale blubber were 488 and 395 ng/g wet weight, respectively. Animals were sacrificed and sampled when they were at their fattest (winter) as well as their lowest body weight (summer). The results show that PCB and OCP exposure causes renal (and probably also liver) lesions in arctic foxes. The prevalence of glomerular, tubular and interstitial lesions was significantly highest in the exposed group (chi-square: all p0.05). The prevalence of lesions was not significantly different between lean (winter) and fat (summer) foxes for any of the lesions (chi-square: all p>0.05). We suggest that wild arctic foxes exposed to an environmental cocktail of persistent organic pollutants, such as PCBs and OCPs, in their natural diet are at risk for developing chronic kidney and liver damage. Whether such lesions may have an impact on age and health of the animals remains uncertain.