Toxicity of natural mixtures of organic pollutants in temperate and polar marine phytoplankton

by Pedro Echevestea, Cristóbal Galbán-Malagón, Jordi Dachsc, Naiara Berrojalbizc, Susana Agustí
Year: 2016


Echeveste, P., Galbán-Malagón, C., Dachs, J., Berrojalbiz, N., & Agustí, S. 2016. Toxicity of natural mixtures of organic pollutants in temperate and polar marine phytoplankton. Science of The Total Environment571, 34-41.


​Semivolatile and persistent organic pollutants (POPs) undergo atmospheric transport before being deposited to the oceans, where they partition to phytoplankton organic matter. The goal of this study was to determine the toxicity of naturally occurring complex mixtures of organic pollutants to temperate and polar phytoplankton communities from the Mediterranean Sea, the North East (NE) Atlantic, and Southern Oceans. The cell abundance of the different phytoplankton groups, chlorophyll a concentrations, viability of the cells, and growth and decay constants were monitored in response to addition of a range of concentrations of mixtures of organic pollutants obtained from seawater extracts. Almost all of the phytoplankton groups were significantly affected by the complex mixtures of non-polar and polar organic pollutants, with toxicity being greater for these mixtures than for single POPs or simple POP mixtures. Cocktails' toxicity arose at concentrations as low as tenfold the field oceanic levels, probably due to a higher chemical activity of the mixture than of simple POPs mixtures. Overall, smaller cells were the most affected, although Mediterranean picophytoplankton was significantly more tolerant to non-polar POPs than picophytoplankton from the Atlantic Ocean or the Bellingshausen Sea microphytoplankton.


Organic pollutant Phytoplankton Pollutant mixture Marine pollution Southern Ocean Atlantic Ocean