Hydrocarbons on coral reefs: An analysis of the presence of anthropogenic PAHs in Bonaire, Dutch Caribbean

Phototoxic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) have been welldocumented as major marine pollutants. While PAHs are known to have negative ecological effects, the spread of point-source PAHs into coral reefs is poorly understood. This study focuses on a potential source of marine PAH contamination from a drain into a coral reef in Bonaire, Dutch Caribbean. PAHs were believed to be detected outside of the drain between October and November 2013, providing incentive for continued monitoring of PAH presence. Insight from this investigation is important not only to the general understanding of point-source marine pollution pathways, but holds implications for drain management strategies. Water samples from sites of varying distances from the drain were analyzed for UV-reactive toxicity using two Artemia sp. bioassays. Results from the bioassays indicated that PAH presence was undetectable, and that there was no relationship between distance from the drain and UVreactive toxicity. It was concluded that sediment dispersion and marine organism bioaccumulation likely accounted for the apparent temporal discrepancy in PAH presence. Field observations displayed noticeable coral reef degradation, which was assumed to be largely caused by factors other than PAH pollution. Despite the lack of evidence for current PAH presence, observations of poor reef health outside of the drain suggest that further studies and management strategies be considered for the drain and cement trough.

This student research was retrieved from Physis: Journal of Marine Science XVI (Fall 2014)19: 66-73 from CIEE Bonaire.

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