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Development and testing of a prototype tool for integrated assessment of chemical status in marine environments


We report the development and application of a prototype tool for integrated assessment of chemical status in aquatic environments based on substance- and matrix-specific environmental assessment criteria (thresholds). The Chemical Status Assessment Tool (CHASE) integrates data on hazardous substances in water, sediments and biota as well as bio-effect indicators and is based on a substance- or bio-effect-specific calculation of a ‘contamination ratio’ being the ratio between an observed concentration and a threshold value. Values <1.0 indicate areas potentially ‘unaffected’, while values >1.0 indicate areas potentially ‘affected’. These ratios are combined within matrices, i.e. for water, sediment and biota and for biological effects. The overall assessment used a ‘one out, all out principle’ with regard to each matrix. The CHASE tool was tested in the Baltic Sea and the North Sea in 376 assessment units. In the former, the chemical status was >1.0 in practically all areas indicating that all areas assessed were potentially affected. The North Sea included areas classified as unaffected or affected. The CHASE tool can in combination with temporal trend assessments of individual substances be advantageous for use in remedial action plans and, in particular, for the science-based evaluation of the status and for determining which specific substances are responsible for a status as potentially affected.

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This work is funded via the HELCOM HOLAS project (EU HOLAS 21.0401/2008/513749/SUB/D2 and Swedish EPA), the HARMONY project (Danish Nature Agency, Swedish EPA, Norwegian NEA and German EPA), EMODnet Chemistry and the DEVOTES project (grant agreement no. 308392 under the 7th Framework Programme, ‘The Ocean of Tomorrow’ Theme). Special thanks are given to Katja Broeg, Britta Sundelin, Thomas Lang and Doris Schiedek for support with biological effect indicators. Also, special thanks are given to Anna Olszewska, Petriina Köngäs, Petra Ringeltaube, Rolf Schneider, Henry Vallius and Matti Verta for support with national data. Thanks are also due to Morten Bjergstrøm, Ulrich Claussen, Jacob Hagberg, Marianne Kroglund, Maria Laamanen, Flemming Møhlenberg and Johnny Reker.

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Correspondence to Jesper H. Andersen.

Electronic supplementary material

The electronic supplementary material includes (1) additional results, (2) a list of substances and their target values, (3) a synthesis of the CHASE classifications, as well as (4) all individual CHASE classifications, the latter providing both an essential documentation and a potential management tool.


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Andersen, J.H., Murray, C., Larsen, M.M. et al. Development and testing of a prototype tool for integrated assessment of chemical status in marine environments. Environ Monit Assess 188, 115 (2016).

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  • Chemical status
  • Contaminants
  • Hazardous substances
  • Monitoring
  • Assessment
  • Integration
  • Water framework directive
  • Marine strategy framework directive