Antoni Rosell - 23 May 2018

Antoni Rosell, ICREA professor and ICTA's Deputy Director of postgraduate studies.

"Anthropogenic footprints in the Northwestern Amazon"


The Amazon rainforest is the world’s largest expanse of tropical rainforest, harboring high levels of both biocultural and cultural diversity. It also has a very low human density (1.1 people per km2), and lies at the end of the continuum of human impact in terms of remoteness and high wilderness quality. Arguably, Amazonian wildlife should not be compromised by industrial and urban pollutants given its remoteness from the putative sources. Nevertheless, beneath this highly diverse and remote environment are large reserves of oil and gas, some of which have been exploited since the 1920s.

We analysed lead levels and their isotopic fingerprint in free-ranging wild game species in oil concessions in the north-western Peruvian Amazon, to provide a comprehensive picture of lead pollution and anthropogenic disturbances in the region. The high concentrations of lead in livers from the wild game that we encountered are comparable to values from industrialized countries and Andean mining areas. Although ammunition is the likely main source of lead  in wildlife, oil-related pollution is also a major source of concomitant lead in oil extractive areas. Due to the extended worldwide use of lead-shots in subsistence hunting and the ever-encroaching oil extraction activities in tropical rainforests, our results uncover important health risks to wildlife conservation and local communities relying on wild meat, and show yet another human footprint in low impacted rainforests.


The main goal of my work is the characterization of natural environments to understand the impact of anthropogenic activities through time. My research tools are based on geochemical techniques, which I apply in three main areas i) the quantitative reconstruction of past climates; ii) environmental forensics, to decipher the origin of pollutants in remote environments; and iii) the study of organic matter in an archaeological context, mainly to reconstruct palaeodiets and function of archaeological artifacts.

I trained as an analytical chemist at the Chemical Institute of Sarrià (IQS), in Barcelona, and earned my PhD in the School of Chemistry at the University of Bristol, England (completed in 1994). In 1996 I was awarded a NERC fellowship at the Department of Fossil Fuels and Environmental Geochemistry at the University of Newcastle, England. In 1999 I became a lecturer in the department of Geography at Durham University, England. In 2001, I joined ICTA-UAB as an ICREA Research Professor.