Food-chain length determines the level of phenanthrene bioaccumulation in corals

by Ananya Ashok, LoneHøj, Diane L.Brinkman, Andrew P. Negri, Susana Agusti


Ashok, A., Høj, L., Brinkman, D. L., Negri, A. P., & Agusti, S. (2022). Food-chain length determines the level of phenanthrene bioaccumulation in corals. Environmental Pollution, 118789.


Exposure from the dissolved-phase and through food-chains contributes to bioaccumulation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in organisms such as fishes and copepods. However, very few studies have investigated the accumulation of PAHs in corals. Information on dietary uptake contribution to PAHs accumulation in corals is especially limited. Here, we used Cavity-Ring-Down Spectroscopy (CRDS) to investigate the uptake rates and accumulation of a 13C-labeled PAH, phenanthrene, in Acropora millepora corals over 14 days. Our experiment involved three treatments representing exposure levels of increasing food-chain length. In Level W, corals were exposed to 13C-phenanthrene directly dissolved in seawater. In Level 1 representing herbivory, Dunaliella salina microalgal culture pre-exposed to 13C-phenanthrene for 48 h was added to the coral treatment jars. In Level 2 representing predation, corals were provided a diet of copepod (Parvocalanus crassirostris) nauplii fed on D. salina pre-exposed to 13C-phenanthrene. Bioconcentration factors (BCF) and bioaccumulation factors (BAF) were calculated as appropriate for all organisms, and biomagnification factors (BMF) were calculated for A. millepora. We found that while phenanthrene uptake rates were not significantly different for the treatments, the accumulated concentration in corals was significantly higher in Level W (33.5 ± 2.83 mg kg−1) than in Level 1 (27.55 ± 2.77 mg kg−1) and Level 2 (29.36 ± 3.84 mg kg−1). Coral log BAF values increased with food-chain length; Level 2 log BAF (6.45) was higher than Level W log BCF (4.18) and Level 1 log BAF (4.5). Coral BMF was also higher for Level 2 than for Level 1. Exposure to dissolved or diet-bound phenanthrene had no significant effect on the coral symbionts’ photosynthetic efficiency (Fv/Fm) as monitored by pulse-amplitude-modulation (PAM) fluorometry, indicating the PAH can be accumulated without toxic effects to their Photosystem II. Our study highlights the critical role of dietary exposure for pollutant accumulation in corals.


PAHs Corals Phenanthrene Bioaccumulation Biomagnification