Scientific project

The ambition of the Institute for the period 2020-2024 is to increase its visibility as well as that of its laboratories and researchers at the local and national level, in order to more effectively promote multidisciplinary projects centered on the laboratories of the University of Lille and to position itself at the forefront of environmental research at regional and international level thanks to its partnerships.

The actions that will be carried out during the next period concern different priority research axes that will strengthen the readability of the Institute and its positioning at regional and international levels.
The IRePSE project is structured around 4 main scientific fields:
• Atmosphere, air quality and impacts
• Ecosystems and biodiversity, structure and dynamics
• Geo-Biosphere, geodynamics and climates of the past
• Environment, Risks, Nature and Society
All these scientific fields are multidisciplinary and cover many complementary skills, present at the University of Lille.

A. "Atmosphere, air quality and impacts"

This area retains a structure close to that proposed during the previous period. It mainly concerns the characterization and study of the fate of gaseous pollutants and aerosols in the atmosphere. The objectives are to identify the impact of these pollutants on air quality, climate and health. The health aspect will be reinforced during this period and the study of pollution biomarkers will be treated.

For the next five-year period, this scientific field will be based largely on the themes of the labexCaPPA scientific project, the request for renewal of which is in progress. CaPPA brings together 7 laboratories, including LOA, PC2A, LASIR, PhLAM and UMS ICARE, which are also backed by IRePSE. However, particular attention will be paid to emerging projects outside CaPPA in order to ensure that the projects are complementary (especially for the "health impacts" theme which is currently not covered by the Labex CaPPA project).

The aim will be to better identify the effects (direct or indirect) of aerosols on the climate, their sources and their future. In addition, since these can come from secondary sources after oxidation of the gas phase, for example, and undergo transformations during their transport, it is necessary to better characterize the transformations of the gaseous species which are sources of aerosols as well than the physical and chemical properties of the different types of aerosols (organic, inorganic, aged, etc.) in order to precisely estimate their impact. Thanks to advances made in the framework of the Labex CaPPA, atmospheric observation methods at different spatial scales (from the meso-scale to the global scale) are developed and make it possible to map the main pollutants from the continental level to the regional level. . These long-term observations are enriched with results from field campaigns in which instruments are deployed allowing advanced characterization of pollutants with particular attention to aerosol particles (size and chemical composition). These data feed into atmospheric inversion models or direct models which aim to trace the origin of the emission of these pollutants (natural or anthropogenic, local emission or distant inputs) and to differentiate peak events from particulate pollution.

By relying on the know-how of the regional teams in atmospheric physico-chemistry, and in particular on their expertise in in situ sampling techniques and physico-chemical analyzes, it is now possible to characterize and monitor very air pollutants and their properties, whether in gaseous or particulate form. Thanks to the reinforcement of the IMPECS laboratory teams, the institute will encourage the emergence of projects combining atmospheric sciences and health impacts. Indeed, it is now recognized that air pollution has dramatic effects on human health, in particular on the respiratory level, and undeniably constitutes a major problem for the international community. The World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated that in 2012, ambient air pollution was responsible for nearly 7 million deaths worldwide, or more than 10% of deaths from all causes, and could be considered the greatest environmental health risk (WHO, 2014,
With the emergence of individual pollutant sensors on the market, it is possible to monitor the exposure of populations to the main regulated pollutants at the individual level. However, we are only at the beginning of these developments and these sensors must be more finely tested, calibrated and calibrated with certified techniques in order to rigorously exploit the measurements resulting from these miniaturized technologies. Finally, studies on the phytosanitary impacts of pollutants, such as ozone or particles, could also be considered.

Four axes are envisaged for this scientific field:

  • Axis 1 concerns "air pollutants and impacts on plants and human health". The theme "air pollutants" is in line with the study of transformations from the gas phase to the particulate phase of the CaPPA labex (WP1 focused on biogenic species) and is complementary because it aims to quantify pollutants in the atmosphere and to study their transformations. It will be in this area to provide a sanitary and phytosanitary component to broaden this theme to impacts on populations and ecosystems.
  • Axis 2 “aerosols and health impacts” is complementary to the WP2, 3 and 4 of the CaPPA labex centered respectively on (i) the physical, chemical and optical properties of aerosols for their remote sensing, (ii) the observation of aerosols at different scales, and (iii) the determination of sources using satellite data. Axis 2 of IRePSE aims to extend these themes towards a better characterization of the composition of aerosols and their sanitary and phytosanitary impacts. This will include studying the role of the fine and ultrafine fraction of aerosols on respiratory diseases (COPD, asthma, lung cancer) depending on the nature of the particles (source, chemical composition, bioavailability). The toxicity effects of these particles can be evaluated using animal models but also in vitro on primary cultures of pulmonary epithelial cells.
  • Axis 3 "clouds and water cycle" is similar to LabexCaPPA WP5, which focuses on the study of the indirect effects of aerosols and their role in the life cycle of clouds. The IRePSE project aims to provide information on the role of aerosols in (i) the formation of cloud droplets, (ii) the quantification of the transfer of gaseous and particulate pollutants to the droplets, and (iii) their elimination from the atmosphere. through precipitation. The IRePSE project also aims to continue and improve the characterization of atmospheric water (water vapor and cloud), at different spatial scales (from regional to planetary), since it plays an important role in the climate current and its future evolution.
  • Axis 4 "Remediation" relates to the use of new fuels (biofuels, addition of hydrogen) to reduce pollutants at source and greenhouse gases. The innovative techniques for characterizing NOx, soot and their precursors (HAPs) recently developed will be used to characterize the impact of different families of fuels on the production of these species.

B. "Ecosystems and Biodiversity, structure and dynamics"

Many studies on the impact of current climate change on biodiversity observe or predict major changes in the composition, functioning of communities and the dynamics (speciation - extinction) of species. Research in this scientific field aims to study the short and long term effects, as well as the past effects, of climate change on biodiversity in terrestrial and marine environments, with a particular focus on biological and ecological models taken in the region. Hauts-de-France.

For the next five years, research in this scientific field will always be organized along two axes:

  • Axis 1 "Environmental pollution and effects on organisms and ecosystems" will integrate collaborations relating to the study of the distribution of pollutants within terrestrial ecosystems (freshwater or estuarine environment with particular attention to the level solid / liquid interfaces of rivers and their mouths), and the impact of these pollutants on organisms and communities as well as their resilience. Regarding the impact of pollutants on organisms, a major effort will be made to exploit the availability of whole genome sequences, high throughput sequencing methodologies, and significant internal skills for the use of bio tools -performance computing, in order to identify the genes and / or genomic regions involved in the adaptation to these pollutants. Experimental approaches under controlled conditions will be carried out in particular on the evolution of tolerance to metallic trace elements in plants, and on the impact of variable micro-climatic conditions but also of the load of pollutants on the dynamics of wildlife communities. of the soil (especially the mesofauna) and their life traits. In fact, soil invertebrates play a major role in the dynamics of ecosystems, in particular through their litter degradation action which allows nutrients to return to the soil.
  • Axis 2 "Climate change and impact on ecosystems and biodiversity" concerns on the one hand the characterization of climate change and its consequences on the properties of the abiotic environment (soil, water and sediment), and on the other hand, the study of patterns and processes involved in the dynamics of biodiversity, focusing on the relationship with climate change. The strategic orientation is to develop on the one hand approaches to modeling the dynamics of biodiversity in relation to climate change, and on the other hand the integration of data from direct observations (field work or experiments in greenhouses or laboratory) or indirect (inferences from molecular data).

A new section concerns the study of interactions between plants and pollinators as witnesses to the impact of climate change on the functioning of communities. Indeed, the availability of floral resources can be altered by climate change and the modification of land use; likewise, climatic changes in synergy with other anthropogenic forcings such as air pollution are likely to affect the survival of pollinator communities. The health and ecological impacts during extreme climatic events can be major, especially in an urban environment. This component will therefore aim to assess the potential impacts of climate change along an urbanization gradient and therefore a possible thermal gradient (heat island effect) and anthropization on the networks of mutual plants / pollinators.

Another component concerns the study of adaptation mechanisms at the scale of individual species through (1) the analysis of the immunocompetence of pollinating species of the genus Bombus along an urban gradient, using here the immunocompetence as a biomarker of sensitivity to environmental changes (direct observations and experimental approaches), and (2) exploring the link between the reproductive system of plant species and their sensitivity to anthropogenic changes (experimental approaches and inferences from data molecular).

A third part concerns the study of the impact of climate change on the dynamics of biodiversity through the study of the speciation process. Indeed, the diversity measured by the number of current species is the result of a dynamic which combines both the processes at the origin of new species (speciation events) and other processes reducing this number (the extinctions). Contemporary extinction rates measured by the reduction in the number of species or by the current reduction in population sizes appear to be high in plants and animals. If the factors responsible for extinctions begin to be well defined, our knowledge of the dynamics of speciation is more embryonic, preventing us from perceiving the long-term consequences of the global changes currently encountered. The objective of this component therefore consists of exploring the contributions of genomic, geographic and environmental factors to the appearance of new species. These factors will be studied at the different evolutionary time scales where the speciation process takes place, again combining various approaches.

IRePSE AAPs in this scientific field may be linked to WP3, 4 and 5 of CPER CLIMIBIO and allow to continue the collaborations initiated or to develop new ones in view of the advances made in the framework of CLIMIBIO. This part of the program is dedicated to the integrated study of the impacts of ongoing climate change and other anthropogenic forcings on biodiversity, human health, and socio-ecosystems.

C. "Geo-Biosphere, geodynamics and climates of the past"

The history of our planet is unique because Life interacts with its physicochemical environment. Understanding the relationships and feedbacks between the Geosphere and the Biosphere on a planetary scale and on a time scale specific to the Earth's natural cycles (the geological time scale) is a fertile research theme that is gaining momentum. within the framework of IRePSE. It has been supported in the past through emerging multidisciplinary projects.
Given that researchers and teachers - researchers in this scientific field often have study sites located abroad, this theme can be based on numerous existing international collaborations (Russia, Mexico, China, Maghreb, Caucasus, Iran , Japan, Australia). These contacts could be used in the framework of coordinating IRePSE activities in support of UL's IR policy.

This area will be structured in 3 axes:

  • Axis 1 “Primitive Life and Earth” will be able to rely on researchers with skills in geochemistry (organic and isotopic), mineralogy and paleontology, as well as on analytical devices available in mass spectrometry, to constrain co-evolution of Life and environments on Earth during the Proterozoic, before the emergence of complex marine ecosystems at the base of the Cambrian (Phanerozoic). The particularity of this theme, under development, in particular within the framework of the ANR M6fossils, consists in the determination of micro- and macro-fossils using new microanalyses and innovative techniques (ToF-SIMS, μL2MS) which allow molecular and anatomical information to be extracted from isolated cells; this information makes it possible to better constrain the determination of these fossils, which are difficult to recognize among the branches known today. It is also based on a Franco-Russian collaboration for the study of ediacarian fossils (late Proterozoic; around 550 Ma = million years), difficult to identify but exceptionally well preserved in Russia; their comparison with analogous morpho-structures that can be observed today on microbial mats formed in extreme hypersaline environments helps us to better interpret their biological origin and understand their formation. In addition, the Ediacaran - Cambrian transition, very probably also represented a major turning point in the greening of terrestrial landscapes (continental ecosystems), during which microbial communities gave way to an emerging algal community (charophytes) which constituted the ecological basis for the evolution of continental plants and the subsequent arrival of land animals. One of the inter-laboratory projects supported in 2018 by IRePSE makes it possible to integrate the environmental and geomicrobiological characterizations of different ecosystems by complementary approaches, from sedimentology to (bio) geochemistry. Another collaborative project is the study of the evolution of the Devonian - Carboniferous tracheophytes and protracheophytes, notably with the flora of Rhynie Chert in Scotland and the Paleontology collections of ULille.
  • Axis 2 will focus on "the couplings between geodynamics, climate and paleobiodiversity". Following the problems associated with the use of fossil organic materials from geological reservoirs and the release of large quantities of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, much reflection has been carried out within the scientific community on the natural processes which lead, on the geological time scale, to a modification of the distribution of the different carbon stocks on our planet. Thus, numerous studies suggest that in the long term, the internal dynamics of the Earth (degassing of CO2 due to volcanic eruptions) and the formation of mountain chains must have had a profound influence on the climate of the past. Indeed, the imposing reliefs resulting from the formation of mountain chains significantly increase the chemical alteration of rocks, the flow of nutrients to the oceans and the storage of organic carbon in ocean sediments (biological pump of CO2). Thus, the gradual climatic cooling observed since about 40 Ma and the entry into the current type of climate "Icehouse", are partly attributed to the uplift of the Alpine mountain range, from the Alps to the Himalayas.
    However, the Upper Paleozoic (420-250 Ma) also corresponds to a major orogenic period, comparable in terms of reliefs created the last 40 Ma; indeed, many mountain systems were formed between the upper Devonian and the late Carboniferous and our planet experienced ice caps on the poles (at least the south pole) at that time; therefore, this geological interval can be considered as an analogue of recent times, at least as regards the paleotopographic and paleoclimatic dimension. Insofar as the evolution of these mountain systems has been much more advanced than the Alps-Himalayan system, which is still in a relatively early stage of its evolution, the understanding of the global terrestrial system in the Upper Paleozoic can provide us with valuable perspectives. on the natural evolution of the climate for the millennia to come. The first effects of this great orogenic period were recorded as early as the Frasnian / Famennian passage (Upper Devonian, ca 375 Ma) with the uplift of peri-equatorial mountain ranges, from Central Asia to North America. This period was also marked by a significant drop in marine biodiversity (this is one of the 5 major Phanerozoic crises, that of the Frasnian-Famennian limit, called the “Kellwasser event”) and by drastic contemporary environmental changes a global cooling of the climate leading to the establishment of ice caps at high latitudes in the Upper Famennian.
    "The Hangenberg event", recorded at the Devonian / Carboniferous border, also constitutes a major crisis event. The harmful causes of these two events of biological crisis are to be found ultimately in global climate change. This thematic requires a multidisciplinary approach between paleontologists, sedimentologists, geochemists and tectonics, in order to highlight and understand the paleobiodiversity dynamics of the Upper Devonian / Lower Carboniferous, follow the evolution of oceanic paleoenvironments, take an interest in geometry and kinematics of mountain ranges, paleogeography and the dynamics of erosion on continents during this same time interval. The geochemical signal of alteration and oxygenation / anoxia of marine series measured in an integrated stratigraphy framework, can inform us about the forcing of orogenic pulses on the climate.
  • Axis 3 will focus on "Quaternary climates, environments and people interactions". The development of this axis is based on the interactions of paleontological, sedimentological and geochemical expertise from the IRePSE laboratories. The data acquired so far shows that changes in climate may have conditioned human response to changes in their environment. Likewise, the fossil and sedimentary record also reveals the different ways in which Man himself has influenced his environment, in a deep and lasting way. One of the objectives is to monitor in parallel the adaptive capacities of human groups present in the region, from the nomadic hunter-gatherers of Prehistory to historic settled societies. The responses to these climatic and environmental changes in terms of management of the territories and natural resources of these different human groups are also easily developable in the form of Geographic Information Systems. One of the goals sought is in particular the understanding and monitoring of the modalities of the establishment of modern ecosystems present in the region, as well as the interactions between humans and these changes in environments.
    Particular attention will be paid to the inventory of species present in the region during temperate phases or naturally adapted to current ecological conditions. Beyond these aspects, an identification of "true non-anthropized ecosystems" will make it possible to provide leads for land developers in the perspective, for example, of the reintroduction of certain species of animals. Furthermore, understanding the responses of coastal ecosystems to climatic and anthropogenic pressures is of academic interest, but also applied. More particularly, the transition zone between estuaries and coastal zones evolves very dynamically over time, driven by changes in sea level, sediment flows which change in close relation to climate and anthropogenic activity. It is therefore interesting to be able to follow over time the ecological and sedimentary evolution of estuaries and the transition zone between them and coastal areas in order to trace (and predict?) The influence of anthropo-climatic factors on the feature. next to. The Picardy and Flemish coastal plains and their numerous estuaries are particularly suitable for this study, especially since the estuaries contain a high-quality record of the Holocene history of the region. Finally, within this axis, are also envisaged all the studies resulting from the drilling of deep marine domains which allow, through the mineralogical and geochemical study of sedimentary particles to reveal and understand the earth-sea transfers and paleoclimatic changes that occurred in the Quaternary.

D. "Environment, Risks, Nature and Society"

The challenge in this cross-cutting area is to develop reflections on the mutations and recompositions of territories, cities and metropolises as territorial systems by integrating environmental changes and risks. We question the processes that underlie these changes, both in terms of vulnerabilities and creative dynamics. Most of the concepts that relate to environmental issues are present in our results and more particularly those on environmental risks or territories at risk, environmental inequalities, relationships with nature and biodiversity. They relate to four themes structuring research in this scientific field, with disciplinary support in Ecology, Physics-Chemistry and Environmental Geosciences.

  • Axis 1 will focus on urbanization: environmental inequalities, relationships with nature and biodiversity ". Urbanization constitutes one of the main factors of modification of the environment, resulting in particular in a strong exposure to toxic anthropogenic substances. In this context we seek to make the link between ecological issues and the quality of life in the city. Thus, a recent project funded by IRePSE proposed to study the impact of urban constraints on wild species that can survive in the city. The same project tried to highlight how these wildlife can tell us about the quality of human habitat. Indeed, urbanization also affects the quality of environments with consequences for human health. Another example of a study that can be carried out in a multidisciplinary way as part of specific IRePSE actions concerns the impact of urbanization on the distribution of drinking water resources. This can also make it possible to integrate establishments such as the Artois-Picardy Water Agency and the BRGM into our perimeter.
  • Axis 2 will focus on "Consultation and governance of environmental risks in the terrestrial environment". There are many environmental risks which can take place on land and which require multidisciplinary monitoring. They may relate to the understanding of the underground and surface circulation of fluids and the management of resources, the vulnerability of dwellings, floods, the assessment of seismic risk, recent and future evolution of the coastal environment and the withdrawal of coasts in the region. Understanding, assessing and governing all of these natural hazards requires a better understanding of the geological structure and dynamics of the subsurface and of environmental surface processes. In addition, the quality of the geological outcrops in the Ardennes, Avesnois, Boulonnais and in the Mining Basin, and the quantity of data acquired throughout the history of the exploitation of regional mineral resources, have made our territory suitable for a confrontation multidisciplinary of surface / sub-surface observations, to dynamic geological modeling (eg structural, thermal, stratigraphic, hydrogeological, geochemical, etc.).
  • Axis 3 will focus on "sustainable development, energy transition and adaptation to climate change". Within the framework of COP 21 and the law relating to the energy transition, France is committed to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and the evolution of its energy mix. The Hauts-de-France region, for its part, has set itself the ambitious objective of switching to 100% renewable energy by 2050. Low-temperature geothermal energy constitutes one of the realistic alternative solutions to the use of energy fossils for our territory, in particular by exploiting the deep aquifer of carboniferous limestones (substratum of the mining basin of the departments of Nord and Pas de Calais) following the example of what is developed in the region of Mons, in Belgium in a context very comparable geological.
  • Finally, axis 4 will focus on the identification and enhancement of the regional heritage of an ecological, geological, paleontological and archaeological order ". In the Hauts-de-France region, human history is particularly mixed with its geological substratum. The IRePSE researchers involved in these initiatives are privileged interlocutors of the various regional authorities in charge of natural heritage or those linked to human activities, such as nature reserves, parks, remarkable sites and museum collections. The development of a paleobiological heritage, even of preservation, covers various geological periods. The regional Palaeozoic sites and / or stratotypes in the Boulonnais, the Ardennes, etc. are very good examples, as well as the quaternary deposits of the region which often allow to combine paleontological and archaeological aspects. Finally, heaps are another good example.