Unrevealing the interactive effects of climate change and oil contamination on lab-simulated estuarine benthic communities

There is growing concern that modifications to the global environment such as ocean acidification and increased ultraviolet radiation may interact with anthropogenic pollutants to adversely affect the future marine environment. Despite this, little is known about the nature of the potential risks posed by such interactions. Here, we performed a multifactorial microcosm experiment to assess the impact of ocean acidification, ultraviolet radiation B (UV-B) and oil hydrocarbon contamination on sediment chemistry, the microbial community (composition and function) and biochemical marker response of selected indicator species.

We found that increased ocean acidification and oil contamination in the absence of UV-B will significantly alter bacterial composition by, among other changes, greatly reducing the relative abundance of Desulfobacterales, known to be important oil hydrocarbon degraders. Along with changes in bacterial composition, we identified concomitant shifts in the composition of aromatic hydrocarbons in the sediment and an increase in oxidative stress effects on our indicator species. Interestingly, our study identifies UV-B as a critical component in the interaction between these factors, since its presence alleviates harmful effects caused by the combination of reduced pH and oil pollution. The model system used here shows that the interactive effect of reduced pH and oil contamination can adversely affect the structure and functioning of sediment benthic communities, with the potential to exacerbate the toxicity of oil hydrocarbons in marine ecosystems.

Coelho F. J. R. C., Cleary D. F.R., Rocha R. J. M., Calado R., Castanheira J. M., Rocha S. M., Silva A. M. S., Simões M. M. Q., Oliveira V., Lillebø A., Almeida A., Cunha A., Lopes I., Moreira-Santos  R. R. M., Marques C. R., Costa R., Pereira R. & Gomes N. C. M., in press. Unrevealing the interactive effects of climate change and oil contamination on lab-simulated estuarine benthic communities. Global Change Biology. Article (subscription required).

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