Biogeochemistry and Ecotoxicology research unit

The Biogeochemistry and Ecotoxicology (Biogéochimie et Écotoxicologie — BE) research unit carries out research, observation and scientific assessments to produce knowledge on the processes of pollutant accumulation and transfer in the food chain and on the biological effects of these chemical contaminants on the marine ecosystem.


The BE unit is located in Brest, Nantes and Toulon; it is composed of an scientific assessment centre for chemical risks and an observation centre (Cellule mixte Ifremer-Inéris d'Analyse du risque chimique — ARC) and three thematic research laboratories:

  • The Biogeochemistry of Metal Contaminants laboratory (Biogéochimie des Contaminants MétalliquesLBCM) and Biogeochemistry of Organic Contaminants laboratory (Biogéochimie des Contaminants Organiques — LBCO) are respectively specialised in the chemical analysis and biogeochemical study of trace metals and non-metallic elements as well as organic contaminants in the different compartments of marine ecosystems. Of particular interest are the chemical contaminant transfer processes in the food chain;
  • The Ecotoxicology laboratory (Écotoxicologie — LBEX) develops targeted research activities on the study of the mechanisms of genotoxicity and reprotoxicity as well as the biodiversity of phytoplanktonic populations exposed to multiple chemical stresses.

The unit also includes the coordination of the chemical contaminants observation network (Coordination du réseau d'observation de la qualité du milieu marin —ROCCH).

Research and expertise

The scientific project of the BE unit involves the biogeochemical behaviour of chemical contaminants in marine ecosystems, their transfer in the food chain and their biological effects.

Two research topics structure the BE project:

  • Topic 1: Sources and fates of contaminants on the individual level and biological effects on the life cycle of organisms
  • Topic 2: Long-term observation and chemical risks

This framework entails many missions:

  • It provides the information systems and scientific tools and data for the assessment of the impacts and the ecological risks of chemical contamination to help promote sustainable and integrated management of coastal areas;
  • It supports and assesses the monitoring strategy of chemical contaminants for the Water Framework Directive (WFD) and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD). It pilots the scientific implementation of Descriptor 8 “[Chemical] Contaminants and their toxic effects”;
  • It coordinates, implements and develops the chemical contaminants observation network (ROCCH);
  • It can carry out chemical assessments in the event of accidental or chronic pollution;
  • It ensures the operational analysis of chemical risks in the marine environment and provides support services for the Environment Resources Laboratories (LER) at IFREMER as well as the supervisory ministries and various national and European and international bodies;
  • It contributes to the transfer of knowledge in marine biogeochemistry and marine ecotoxicology.