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Environ Sci Technol. 2008 Feb 15;42(4):1371-6.

Phototoxicity of pyrene affects benthic algae and bacteria from the Arctic.

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  • 1National Environmental Research Institute, Department of Marine Ecology, University of Aarhus, Frederiksborgvej 399, 4000 Roskilde, Denmark.


Phototoxicity of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in the Arctic is important to study since the future PAH load is likely to increase. In combination with the increased UV-light penetration due to ozone layer thinning, phototoxicity may be a potential problem for arctic areas. The aim of this study was to evaluate effects of pyrene and phototoxicity of pyrene on natural algae and bacteria from arctic sediments. Sediments from a shallow-water marine baywere spiked with different pyrene concentrations. Microcosms containing the sediment were incubated under three light regimes, natural sunlight with UV-light, natural sunlight without UV-light, and dark. Significant effects were evident at low pyrene concentrations, particularly in presence of UV-light, indicating phototoxicity. The microalgae were especially sensitive to the phototoxicity of pyrene. Already atthe lowest pyrene concentration (Cfree: 4 nM) algal 14C-incorporation and chlorophyll a content were reduced. The toxic effects of pyrene on the microalgae probably led to the release of organic matter. In agreement with this, bacterial activity increased at high pyrene concentrations indicated by increased oxygen consumption and increased release of inorganic N and P from the sediment. This study indicates that phototoxicity of PAHs may be relevant for sediment communities from shallow marine arctic areas at environmentally relevant pyrene concentrations.

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