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PLoS One. 2013 Oct 9;8(10):e77360. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0077360. eCollection 2013.

Ten years after the prestige oil spill: seabird trophic ecology as indicator of long-term effects on the coastal marine ecosystem.

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1
Department Biologia Animal, Facultat de Biologia, Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain.

Erratum in

  • PLoS One. 2013;8(10). doi:10.1371/annotation/bb686276-234c-4881-bcd5-5051d0e66bfc. Sardà, Francesc [corrected to Sardà-Palomera, Francesc].

Abstract

Major oil spills can have long-term impacts since oil pollution does not only result in acute mortality of marine organisms, but also affects productivity levels, predator-prey dynamics, and damages habitats that support marine communities. However, despite the conservation implications of oil accidents, the monitoring and assessment of its lasting impacts still remains a difficult and daunting task. Here, we used European shags to evaluate the overall, lasting effects of the Prestige oil spill (2002) on the affected marine ecosystem. Using δ ¹⁵N and Hg analysis, we trace temporal changes in feeding ecology potentially related to alterations of the food web due to the spill. Using climatic and oceanic data, we also investigate the influence of North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) index, the sea surface temperature (SST) and the chlorophyll a (Chl a) on the observed changes. Analysis of δ ¹⁵N and Hg concentrations revealed that after the Prestige oil spill, shag chicks abruptly switched their trophic level from a diet based on a high percentage of demersal-benthic fish to a higher proportion of pelagic/semi-pelagic species. There was no evidence that Chl a, SST and NAO reflected any particular changes or severity in environmental conditions for any year or season that may explain the sudden change observed in trophic level. Thus, this study highlighted an impact on the marine food web for at least three years. Our results provide the best evidence to date of the long-term consequences of the Prestige oil spill. They also show how, regardless of wider oceanographic variability, lasting impacts on predator-prey dynamics can be assessed using biochemical markers. This is particularly useful if larger scale and longer term monitoring of all trophic levels is unfeasible due to limited funding or high ecosystem complexity.

PMID:
24130877
PMCID:
PMC3793948
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pone.0077360
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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