TerraChem: chemical contamination in nature mapped

Barn owl, Jasja Dekker

The overall goal of TerraChem is to better understand wildlife exposure to all man-made chemicals. The research team will study the damage these chemicals cause to terrestrial biodiversity and ecosystem services in Europe. This will help develop more efficient environmental risk assessments. In this way, TerraChem is contributing to achieving the EU's zero pollution ambition.

For more information please contact the Naturalis lead for TerraChem: 

Paola Movalli, paola.movalli@naturalis.nl

Or visit terrachem.eu

in short

TerraChem will deliver a novel systems approach for integrated monitoring, modelling, data management and regulatory applications, to advance the environmental risk assessment and risk management of man-made chemicals in the terrestrial environment in Europe. This includes:

  • A novel approach to the holistic monitoring of chemicals in terrestrial food chains using cutting-edge analytical and data treatment methods encompassing all known and suspected man-made chemicals in the environment; and application of a battery of bioassays to measure mixture effects in these food chain samples.
  • Novel models which together address the full chemical source-to-damage pathway from (a) environmental entry points, to (b) environmental fate (in soil, soil pore water), to (c) exposure of terrestrial biota, to (d) trophic propagation of chemicals in terrestrial food chains, to (e) toxic effects in individual organisms and on species populations, to (f) damage on genetic diversity, ecosystem functioning and selected ecosystem services.
  • Novel assessment and management tools for key regulatory applications of TerraChem monitoring data and modelling output by: (a) transferring them to ecotoxicological assessment methods to increase environmental realism and proposing revisions to regulatory Technical Guidance Documents; (b) enhancing prioritisation of chemicals for further environmental risk assessment and risk management measures taking into account damage to biodiversity; and (c) exploring innovative and novel chemicals management tools to account for damage to biodiversity.
  • A novel Database Management System, Early Warning System and TerraChem Dashboard, incorporating data interpretation and visualisation tools, offering a one-stop shop for data and early warning on chemicals in terrestrial biodiversity in Europe.

works here


Naturalis will study the routes of exposure to chemicals in wildlife, including routes and extent of trophic transfer, for selected food chains in representative terrestrial ecosystems. This will include work to determine chemicals present in the selected food chains, to understand routes of exposure and trophic transfer of chemicals, to explore patterns for individual contaminants and predominant chemical mixtures in terrestrial trophic chains, and to elucidate toxic effects of chemical mixtures in wildlife. 

In practice, Naturalis will be running case studies across a range of representative biomes, like farmland, woodland, and grassland, from representative food chains (e.g. bird of prey food chain, carnivorous mammal food chain, insectivorous mammal food chain) in six different countries in Europe, and a pan-European case study on the barn owl food chain (involving at least 6 countries).

Barn owl credit: Jasja Dekker

out more

Find out more about the different aspects of TerraChem by visiting the website:


Or contact the Naturalis' project leader Paola Movalli.

  • TerraChem is building further on the research project called "LIFE APEX," which examined the systematic use of contaminant data from apex predators and their prey in chemicals management. 
  • TerraChem is mede-gefinancierd door de Europese Unie. Opvattingen en meningen zijn echter uitsluitend die van de auteur(s) en weerspiegelen niet noodzakelijkerwijs die van de Europese Unie of het European Research Executive Agency. Noch de Europese Unie, noch de subsidieverlenende instantie kan hiervoor verantwoordelijk worden gehouden.
TerraChem logo