Ecosystem and human health assessment to define environmental management strategies: The case of long-term human impacts on an Arctic lake

Sci Total Environ. 2006 Oct 1;369(1-3):1-20. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2006.06.009. Epub 2006 Aug 21.


There are rich deposits of mineral and fossil natural resources in the Arctic, which make this region very attractive for extracting industries. Their operations have immediate and vast consequences for ecological systems, which are particularly vulnerable in this region. We are developing a management strategy for Arctic watersheds impacted by industrial production. The case study is Lake Imandra watershed (Murmansk oblast, Russia) that has exceptionally high levels of economic development and large numbers of people living there. We track the impacts of toxic pollution on ecosystem health and then--human health. Three periods are identified: (a) natural, pre-industrial state; (b) disturbed, under rapid economic development; and (c) partial recovery, during recent economic meltdown. The ecosystem is shown to transform into a qualitatively new state, which is still different from the original natural state, even after toxic loadings have substantially decreased. Fish disease where analyzed to produce and integral evaluation of ecosystem health. Accumulation of heavy metals in fish is correlated with etiology of many diseases. Dose-effect relationships are between integral water quality indices and ecosystem health indicators clearly demonstrates that existing water quality standards adopted in Russia are inadequate for Arctic regions. Health was also poor for people drinking water from the Lake. Transport of heavy metals from drinking water, into human organs, and their effect on liver and kidney diseases shows the close connection between ecosystem and human health. A management system is outlined that is based on feedback from indices of ecosystem and human health and control over economic production and/or the amount of toxic loading produced. We argue that prospects for implementation of such a system are quite bleak at this time, and that more likely we will see a continued depopulation of these Northern regions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology
  • Conservation of Natural Resources*
  • Ecosystem
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Epidemiological Monitoring
  • Eukaryota
  • Fishes
  • Fresh Water* / analysis
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / epidemiology
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / etiology
  • Hematologic Diseases / epidemiology
  • Hematologic Diseases / etiology
  • Humans
  • Invertebrates
  • Kidney Diseases / epidemiology
  • Kidney Diseases / etiology
  • Liver Diseases / epidemiology
  • Liver Diseases / etiology
  • Metals, Heavy / analysis
  • Metals, Heavy / metabolism
  • Metals, Heavy / toxicity
  • Phytoplankton
  • Russia
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis*
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / metabolism
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / toxicity*
  • Water Pollution / adverse effects
  • Water Pollution / prevention & control*
  • Water Supply / analysis
  • Zooplankton


  • Metals, Heavy
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical