Dark waters in Bergen? Investigating the elements in Store Lungegårdsvann & Puddefjorden Part 1

Bergen’s idyllic seaside

Bergen’s Municipality plan for a new recreational center located in the city’s heart is progressing faster and faster in order to offer to its citizens by 2023 a peaceful place to escape everyday life, perform physical activities or just enjoy the golden sunset. The inner Byfjorden area and Bergen’s seafront has a great value to its residents and a very long history. Over the years, the industrial development has resulted in tremendous changes around and inside the water, and as the development around the area expands and invades more and more the natural landscape, the concern for the water’s state is growing.

Picture 1. Sunset from the swimming platform in Møllendal, September 2020.
Picture 2. Frozen Store Lungegårdsvann, January 2021.

The new Store Lungegårdsvann (SLV)

In the past SLV has been heavily polluted due to anthropogenic influence including sewage disposal, waste discharges, urban runoff,  erosion of materials (e.g. painted surfaces of boats) etc. That is greatly concerning not only for the natural environment but also because of the potential risks to human health as it serves an area of recreation for the city’s residents to  this day. Today there is ongoing work in order to upgrade and expand the Lungegårdsparken that by 2023 will be accessible with the new Bybanen line towards Fyllingsdalen. The municipality’s plan is to use the rock masses extracted from the Bybanen Ulrik tunnel, to create the city beach and park as well as improve the seabed which is highly polluted, as a part of the Cleaner Harbor Bergen project.

Picture 3. Dumping typewriters in Store Lungegårdsvannet in the 1930s. Source: http://marcus.uib.no/instance/photograph/ubb-kk-n-324-034 |title=[Dumping av kontorutstyr i Store Lungegårdsvann] |author=Avdeling for spesialsamlinger |access date=Mon Feb 22, 2021 |publisher=University of Bergen Library.
Picture 4. Dumping typewriters in Store Lungegårdsvannet in the 1930s. Source: http://marcus.uib.no/instance/photograph/ubb-kk-n-324-037 |title=[Dumping av kontorutstyr i Store Lungegårdsvann] |author=Avdeling for spesialsamlinger |access date=Mon Feb 22, 2021 |publisher=University of Bergen Library.
Picture 5. People enjoying a swim in SLV during a hot August morning, 2020.

Puddefjorden: A success story?

Puddefjorden was also one of the heavily polluted areas in Bergen with high concentrations of lead, copper, mercury, and organic pollutants in its sediment as a result of the intense industrial activity in the port and urban discharges. To combat that issue the Bergen Municipality in 2018 completed a plan to “clean” the contaminants from the area’s seabed by laying 400,000 tonnes of tunnel boring machine (TBM) masses (approximately 40 cm thick) in a surface that is a total of 1,8 km2. That served the purpose of isolating the polluted sediment and preventing the chemicals to suspend in the water column. Since the completion of the project, it has been characterized as a success story as benthic organisms have inhabited the area again. In that case it is very interesting to examine if the implementation of this strategy has successfully blocked the heavy metals and environmental toxins in the old sediment from dispersing and being taken up from the organisms!

Picture 6. A peaceful morning in Puddefjorden where the water mirrors the sky, February 2021.

Project aim

The aim of my project will be to investigate whether elements like Cu and Zn that have been detected in the sediments of these areas, can also be traced in suspended particles the water column and whether those elements are incorporated by biological particles. In other words, it will be an effort to trace those heavy metals that have been introduced in these areas in the past due to pollution and measure the ratio of intake by algae cells as well as the potential impact of those elements on the algae biomass . To do that we will be using an innovative analysis called wavelength dispersive X-ray fluorescence (WDXRF) spectroscopy in combination. WDXRF will provide us with the amount of carbon (C), nitrogen (N), silicon (Si), calcium (Ca), phosphorus (P), magnesium (Mg), sulfur (S), potassium (K), iron (Fe), aluminium (Al), arsenic (As), copper (Cu), zinc (Zn) and mercury (Hg) in the particulate matter. In addition to that we will be following the changes in the phytoplankton community by measuring Chlorophyll a, identifying the species with a FlowCam and scanning electron microscopy, and estimating the biomass especially during the spring bloom. The results will bring into the light important information about SLV’s and Puddefjorden’s current state that could influence decisions by policy makers monitoring the water quality or even future urban and industrial development in the area. So, to see the results stay tuned for part two!

Picture 7. Filtering the water samples using Polycarbonate filters.
Picture 8. The XRF machine in action!
Picture 9. Aquapen: The world’s cutest Chlorophyll measuring machine.

Short bio

My name is Iliana-Vasiliki Ntinou and I am in my first year of master’s in Marine Biology at University of Bergen. I studied Biology at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, and I focused on the biodiversity and abundance of phytoplankton and zooplankton at a coastal site of Thermaikos Gulf, Greece. I did my internship in the Fisheries Research Institute in Greece and took part in monitoring of water quality in Kavala Gulf and Nestos Lagoons. My personal interests include ecological processes in small scale systems such as plankton communities, species succession within those as response to environmental changes and investigation of trophic relationships between plankton species. I am very excited and intrigued for the opportunity to get a better look at the environment of Bergen, not only because it falls into my scientific interests but also because as an urban area of high importance it is directly linked to the society. The current project is a part of the course BIO299 Research Practice in Biology at UiB during the spring semester of 2021. Project title: Element composition and phytoplankton biomass in Store Lungegårdsvann (SLV) / Puddefjorden during spring 2021. Project supervisor: prof. Jorun Karin Egge and researcher Tatiana Margo Tsagaraki.

Picture 10. First day of sampling in SLV.


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