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J Hazard Mater. 2012 May 30;217-218:338-49. doi: 10.1016/j.jhazmat.2012.03.034. Epub 2012 Mar 19.

Stronger impact of dispersant plus crude oil on natural plankton assemblages in short-term marine mesocosms.

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Library of Marine Samples, Korea Ocean Research and Development Institute, Geoje 656-830, Republic of Korea.


To assess the effects of crude oil and dispersant on marine planktonic ecosystems, analyses were performed in 1000-L mesocosm over a period of nine days. Triplicate experiments were conducted for two different treatments, namely, addition of crude oil alone and oil plus dispersant. In the mesocosm with oil plus dispersant, high concentrations of total petroleum hydrocarbon (TPH) were soon found in the bottom layer. In addition, most planktonic communities responded drastically to the presence of dispersant acting to disperse TPH: total bacterial abundances increased for the first two days and then decreased rapidly for the remainder of the experiment. The abundance of heterotrophic flagellates increased rapidly in association with the increase in bacterial cells. The abundance of phytoplankton and zooplankton communities decreased clearly within two days. Time-delayed relationship also revealed that the TPH concentration had a significant negative relationship with phyto- and zooplankton communities within two days. However, most planktonic communities were affected less adversely in the mesocosms treated with crude oil alone than in those treated with both crude oil and dispersant. The present results demonstrate that the planktonic ecosystem was damaged more severely by the introduction of dispersant than by the harmful effects of crude oil itself. Therefore, caution should be taken when considering the direct application of dispersant in natural environments, even though it has the advantage of rapidly removing crude oil.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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