Laboratory simulation system, using Carcinus maenas as the model organism, for assessing the impact of CO2 leakage from sub-seabed injection and storage

The capture and storage of CO2 in sub-seabed geological formations has been proposed as one of the potential options to decrease atmospheric CO2 concentrations in order to mitigate the abrupt and irreversible consequences of climate change. However, it is possible that CO2 leakages could occur during the injection and sequestration procedure, with significant repercussions for the marine environment. We investigate the effects of acidification derived from possible CO2 leakage events on the European green crab, Carcinus maenas. To this end, a lab-scale experiment involving direct release of CO2 was conducted at pH values between 7.7 and 6.15. Female crabs were exposed for 10 days to sediment collected from two different coastal areas, one with relatively uncontaminated sediment (RSP) and the other with known contaminated sediment (MZ and ML), under the pre-established seawater pH conditions. Survival rate, histopathological damage and metal (Fe, Mn, Cu, Zn, Cr, Cd and Pb) and As accumulation in gills and hepatopancreas tissue were employed as endpoints. In addition, the obtained results were compared with the results of the physico-chemical characterization of the sediments, which included the determination of the metals Fe, Mn, Cu, Zn, Cr, Pb and Cd, the metalloid As, certain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), as well as nonchemical sediment properties (grain size, organic carbon and total organic matter). Significant associations were observed between pH and the histological damage. Concentrations of Fe, Mn, Cr, Pb, Cd and PAHs in sediment, presented significant negative correlations with the damage to gills and hepatopancreas, and positive correlations with metal accumulation in both tissues. The results obtained in this study reveal the importance of sediment properties in the biological effects caused by possible CO2 leakage. However, a clear pattern was not observed between metal accumulation in tissues and pH reduction. Animals’ avoidance behavior and degree of tolerance to acidification are confounding factors for assessing metal bioaccumulation. Further research is required to find a suitable assay that would allow us to predict the risk to environmental health of possible negative side effects of metal mobility derived from CO2 leakage during its injection and storage in sub-seabed formations.

Rodríguez-Romero A., Jiménez-Tenorio N., Riba I. & Blasco J., 2016. Laboratory simulation system, using Carcinus maenas as the model organism, for assessing the impact of CO2 leakage from sub-seabed injection and storage. Environmental Research 144(A):117–129. Article (subscription required).


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