A 50-years record of dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethanes and hexachloro-cyclohexanes in lake sediments and penguin droppings on King George Island, Maritime Antarctic

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Courtesy of IOS Press

Since the ban on the use of organochlorine pesticides (OCPs) such as dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane (DDT) and hexachlorocyclohexane (HCH) in agriculture, their levels have generally dropped. In a number of cases, however, the levels of these OCPs were found to be unchanging or even increasing after the ban. With the aim to unveil the possible causes of these exceptions, we collected two lake cores from King George Island, West Antarctica, and determined their accumulation flux profiles and temporal trends of these OCPs. In the lake core sediments with glacier meltwater input, the accumulation flux of DDT shows an abnormal peak around 1980s in addition to the expected one in 1960s. In the lake core sediments without glacier meltwater input, the accumulation flux of DDT shows a gradual decline trend after the peak in 1960s. This striking difference in the DDT flux profiles between the two lake cores is most likely caused by the regional climate warming and the resulted discharge of the DDT stored in the Antarctic ice cap into the lakes in the Antarctic glacier frontier. Furthermore, to investigate the change of OCPs loadings in the Antarctic coastal ecosystem, we reconstructed the HCH and DDT concentration profiles in penguin droppings and observed a gradual increase for the former and a continuous decrease for the latter during the past 50 years. The increase of HCH seems to be due to the regional warming from the early 1970s and the resulted HCH discharge to the coastal ecosystem by glaciers, meltwater and the illegal use of HCH in the Southern Hemisphere in the recent decade. The different temporal trends of HCH and DDT accumulation rate in the lake core with glacier meltwater input and the aged penguin droppings can be explained by their different water-soluble property.

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