Acute oil exposure reduces physiological process rates in Arctic phyto- and zooplankton

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Arctic shipping and oil exploration are expected to increase, as sea ice extent is reduced. This enhances the risk for accidental oil spills throughout the Arctic, which emphasises the need to quantify potential consequences to the marine ecosystem and to evaluate risk and choose appropriate remediation methods. This study investigated the sensitivity of Arctic marine plankton to the water accommodated fraction (WAF) of heavy fuel oil. Arctic marine phytoplankton and copepods (Calanus finmarchicus) were exposed to three WAF concentrations corresponding to total hydrocarbon contents of 0.07 mg l-1, 0.28 mg l-1 and 0.55 mg l-1. Additionally, the potential phototoxic effects of exposing the WAF to sunlight, including the UV spectrum, were tested. The study determined sub-lethal effects of WAF exposure on rates of key ecosystem processes: primary production of phytoplankton and grazing (faecal pellet production) of copepods. Both phytoplankton and copepods responded negatively to WAF exposure. Biomass specific primary production was reduced by 6, 52 and 73% and faecal pellet production by 18, 51 and 86% with increasing WAF concentrations compared to controls. The phototoxic effect reduced primary production in the two highest WAF concentration treatments by 71 and 91%, respectively. This experiment contributes to the limited knowledge of acute sub-lethal effects of potential oil spills to the Arctic pelagic food web.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEcotoxicology
Volume28
Issue1
Pages (from-to)26-36
Number of pages11
ISSN0963-9292
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2019

    Research areas

  • Arctic, Calanus finmarchicus, Oil spill, Phototoxicity, Phytoplankton, WAF

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