, Volume 5, Issue 4, pp 229–251 | Cite as

Effects of dispersed and adsorbed crude oil on microalgal and bacterial communities of cold seawater

  • R. Siron
  • É. Pelletier
  • S. Roy

Mesocosm facilities consisting of five 3.5 m3 stainless steel tanks filled with seawater from the St Lawrence Estuary (Québec, Canada) were used to conduct a 2 month experiment under the natural conditions prevailing at the end of the winter in subarctic environments, with seawater temperatures ranging from-1.5°C (surface ice cover) to 3°C. Various oil treatments were simulated in mesocosms: Forties crude oil was chemically dispersed, adsorbed onto an immersed substrate and spilled without any treatment. Total oil concentrations ranged from <1 mgl-1 (untreated oil) to 44.6 mgl-1 (dispersed oil). Contrasting with the parent crude oil and dispersed oil, the dissolved phase was enriched with low molecular weight polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH). As revealed by pH variations, chlorophyll a contents and degraded pigments, the phytoplankton growth was inhibited early in tanks contaminated with dispersed and adsorbed oil. Although global measurements showed a recovery of the microalgal activity while the dispersed oil was diluted in a flow-through cascade system, the specific composition was quite different from the control, with an increase in small microflagellate species and a marked decline in the diversity of centric diatoms. Small microflagellates also dominated in the heavily oil-contaminated surface microlayer. The growth of viable heterotrophic bacteria (VHB) was immediately stimulated by both dispersed and adsorbed oil (104–105 colony forming units per ml) and oil-degrading bacteria (ODB) reached maximum densities (102 CFU ml-1) later in the experiment. The adaptation of the indigenous community was assessed using the ODB/VHB ratio, which increased by ten times in the seawater contaminated with dispersed oil. No significant bacterial enhancement was observed in the tank that received untreated oil. No bacterial enrichment was found in the surface microlayer. In sediment traps, the bacterial density increased with the amount of total settling matter and oil residues.


dispersal adsorption crude oil microalgal communities bacterial communities 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. API (American Petroleum Institute) (1986) The Role of Chemical Dispersants in Oil Spill Control. Washington, DC: American Petroleum Institute.Google Scholar
  2. Atlas, R.M. and Bartha, R. (1972) Biodegradation of petroleum at low temperatures. Can. J. Microbiol. 18, 1851–5.Google Scholar
  3. Atlas, R.M., Horowitz, A. and Busdosh, M. (1978) Prudhoe crude oil in Arctic marine ice, water, and sediment ecosystems: degradation and interactions with microbial and benthic communities. J. Fish. Res. Board Can. 35, 585–90.Google Scholar
  4. Barlow, R.G., Gosselin, M., Legendre, L., Therriault, J.C., Demers, S., Mantoura, R.F. and Llewellyn, C.A. (1988) Photoadaptive strategies in sea-ice microalgae. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 45, 145–52.Google Scholar
  5. Bell, R.C. and Albright, L.J. (1982) Bacteriological investigation of the neuston and plankton in the Fraser River estuary, British Columbia. Estuarine Coast. Shelf Sci. 15, 385–94.Google Scholar
  6. Boehm, P.D., Fiest, D.L., Mackay, D. and Paterson, S. (1982a) Physical-chemical weathering of petroleum hydrocarbons from the Ixtoc I blowout: chemical measurements and a weathering model. Environ. Sci. Technol. 16, 498–505.Google Scholar
  7. Boehm, P.D., Barak, J.E., Fiest, D.L. and Elskus, A.A. (1982b) A chemical investigation of the transport and fate of petroleum hydrocarbons in littoral and benthic environments: the Tsesis oil spill. Mar. Environ. Res. 6, 157–88.Google Scholar
  8. Colwell, R.R., Mills, A.L., Walker, J.D., Garcia-Tello, P. and Campos, P.V. (1978) Microbial ecology studies of the Metula spill in the Straits of Magellan. J. Fish. Res. Board Can. 35, 573–80.Google Scholar
  9. Dahl, E., Laake, M., Tjessem, K., Eberlein, K. and Bohle, B. (1983) Effects of Ekofisk crude oil on an enclosed planktonic ecosystem. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 14, 81–91.Google Scholar
  10. Delille, D. and Cahet, G. (1984) Croissance de populations hétérotrophes subantarctiques soumises à des enrichissements azotés; effets des hydrocarbures. In CNRS ed. Proc. Intern. Colloquium of Marine Microbiology, pp. 213–19, Paris: CNRS.Google Scholar
  11. Delille, D. and Vaillant, N. (1990) The influence of crude oil on the growth of subantarctic marine bacteria. Antarctic Sci. 2, 123–7.Google Scholar
  12. Eimhjellen, K., Nilssen, O., Josefsen, K., Sommer, T., Sendstad, E., Sveum, P. and Hoddo, T. (1982) Microbiology: II. Biodegradation of Oil, 1981 Study Results. (BIOS) Baffin Island Oil Spill Working Report 81-6.Google Scholar
  13. El Samra, M.I., Emara, H.I. and Shunbo, F. (1986) Dissolved petroleum hydrocarbon in the northwestern Arabian gulf. Mar. Pollut. Bull. 17, 65–8.Google Scholar
  14. Garrett, W.D. (1965) Collection of slick-forming materials from the sea surface. Limnol. Oceanogr. 10, 602–5.Google Scholar
  15. Griffiths, R.P., MacNamara, T.M., Caldwell, B.A. and Morita, R.Y. (1981) Field observations on the acute effect of crude oil on glucose and glutamate uptake in samples collected from Arctic and subarctic waters. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 41, 1400–6.Google Scholar
  16. Hardy, J.T. (1982) The sea surface microlayer: biology, chemistry and anthropogenic enrichment. Prog. Oceanogr. 11, 307–28.Google Scholar
  17. Harrison, P.J., Cochlan, W.P., Acreman, J.C., Parsons, T.R., Thompson, P.A. and Dovey, H.M. (1986) The effects of crude oil and Corexit 9527 on marine phytoplankton in an experimental enclosure. Mar. Environ. Res. 18, 93–109.Google Scholar
  18. Heitkamp, M.A. and Cerniglia, C.E. (1987) Effects of chemical structure and exposure on the microbial degradation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in freshwater and estuarine ecosystems. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 6, 535–46.Google Scholar
  19. Hodson, R.E., Azam, F. and Lee, R.F. (1977) Effects of four oils on marine bacterial populations: controlled ecosystem pollution experiment. Bull. Mar. Sci. 27, 119–26.Google Scholar
  20. Hofslagare, O., Samuelsson, G., Sjoberg, S. and Ingri, N. (1983) A precise potentiometric method for determination of algal activity in an open CO2 system. Plant, Cell Environ. 6, 195–201.Google Scholar
  21. Horowitz, A. and Atlas, R.M. (1977) Continuous open flow-through system as a model for oil degradation in the arctic ocean. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 33, 647–53.Google Scholar
  22. Hsiao, S.I.C. (1978) Effects of crude oils on the growth of arctic marine phytoplankton. Environ. Pollut. 17, 93–107.Google Scholar
  23. Kaneko, T., Atlas, R.M. and Krichevsky, M. (1977) Diversity of bacterial populations in the Beaufort Sea. Nature 270, 596–9.Google Scholar
  24. Lee, R.F., Takahashi, M., Beers, J.R., Thomas, W.H., Seibert, D.L.R., Koeller, P. and Green, D.R. (1977) Controlled ecosystems: their use in the study of the effects of petroleum hydrocarbons on plankton. In Vernberg, F.J., Calabrese, A., Thurberg, F.P. and Vernberg, W.B. eds. Physiological responses of marine biota to pollutants, pp. 323–42. New-York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  25. Lelong, P.P., Bianchi, M.A. and Martin, Y.P. (1980) Dynamique des populations planctoniques et bactériennes au cours d'une production expérimentale de phytoplancton marin naturel. II. Structure et physiologie des populations et leurs interactions. Can. J. Microbiol. 26, 297–307.Google Scholar
  26. Levasseur, M., Therriault, J.-C. and Legendre, L. (1984) Hierarchical control of phytoplankton succession by physical factors. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 19, 211–22.Google Scholar
  27. Mackay, D. and McAuliffe, C.D. (1988) Fate of hydrocarbons discharged at sea. Oil Chem. Pollut. 5, 1–20.Google Scholar
  28. Nalewajko, C. and Schindler, D.W. (1976) Primary production, extracellular release and heterotrophy in two lakes in the ELA, northwestern Ontario, J. Fish. Res. Board Can. 33, 219–26.Google Scholar
  29. Ostgaard, K., Hegseth, E.N. and Jensen, A. (1984) Species-dependent sensitivity of marine planktonic algae to Ekofisk crude oil under different light conditions. Bot. Mar. 27, 309–18.Google Scholar
  30. Oviatt, C.A., Keller, A.A., Sampou, P.A. and Beatty, L.L. (1986) Patterns of productivity during eutrophication: a mesocosm experiment. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 28, 69–80.Google Scholar
  31. Parsons, T.R., Harrison, P.J., Acreman, J.C., Dovey, H.M., Thompson, P.A., Lalli, C.M., Lee, K., Li, G. and Chen, X. (1984) An experimental marine ecosystem response to crude oil and Corexit 9527: part 2. Biological effects. Mar. Environ. Res. 13, 265–75.Google Scholar
  32. Roy, S., Siron, R. and Pelletier, E. (1991) Comparison of radiocarbon uptake and DCMU-fluorescence techniques in evaluating dispersed oil effects on phytoplankton photosynthetic activity. Water Res. 25, 1249–54.Google Scholar
  33. Siron, R. and Giusti, G. (1990) Hydrocarbon pollution in particle-rich waters (Gulf of Fos-sur-mer): comparative study of extraction procedures. Mar. Chem. 30, 379–88.Google Scholar
  34. Siron, R. and Pelletier, E. (1993) The use of chromatographic indexes to study the biodegradation of crude oil in cold/icy seawater. In Proceedings of the 16th Arctic and Marine Oil Spill Program (AMOP) Technical Seminar, Vol. 1, pp. 101–20. Ottawa: Environment Canada.Google Scholar
  35. Siron, R. and Pelletier, E. (1994) Toxicity assessment of oil compounds and an oil treating agent using the Photobacterium phosphoreum bioassay. Can. Tech. Rep. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 1989, 164–178.Google Scholar
  36. Siron, R., Rontani, J.F. and Giusti, G. (1987) Contamination pétrolière de la microcouche de surface du Golfe de Fos-sur-mer (Mer Méditerranée). Int. J. Environ. Anal. Chem. 28, 93–104.Google Scholar
  37. Siron, R., Giusti, G., Berland, B., Morales-Loo, M.R. and Pelletier, E. (1991) Water-soluble petroleum compounds: chemical aspects and effects on the growth of microalgae. Sci. Total Environ. 104, 221–7.Google Scholar
  38. Siron, R., Pelletier, E., Delille, D. and Roy, S. (1993) Fate and effects of dispersed crude oil under icy conditions simulated in mesocosms. Mar. Environ. Res. 35, 273–302.Google Scholar
  39. Utermohl, H. (1931) Neue wege in der quantitativen erfassung des planktons mit besonderer berucksichtigung des ultraplanktons. Verh. Int. Ver. Theor. Angew. Limnol. 5, 567–96.Google Scholar
  40. Vandermeulen, J.H. and Ahern, T.P. (1976) Effect of petroleum hydrocarbons on algal physiology: review and progress report. In Lockwood, A.P.M. ed. Effects of pollutants on aquatic organisms, pp. 107–25. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  41. Vargo, G.A., Hutchins, M. and Almquist, G. (1982) The effect of low, chronic levels of No. 2 fuel oil on natural phytoplankton assemblages in microcosms: 1. Species composition and seasonal succession. Mar. Environ. Res. 6, 245–64.Google Scholar
  42. Wakeham, S.G. (1977) Synchronous fluorescence spectroscopy and its application to indigenous and petroleum-derived hydrocarbons in lacustrine sediments. Environ. Sci. Technol. 11, 272–6.Google Scholar
  43. Walker, J.D. and Colwell, R.R. (1976) Measuring the potential activity of hydrocarbon-degrading bacteria. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 31, 189–97.Google Scholar
  44. Yentsch, C.S. and Menzel, D.W. (1963) A method for the determination of phytoplankton chlorophyll and phaeophytin by fluorescence. Deep Sea Res. 10, 221–31.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Chapman & Hall 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. Siron
    • 1
  • É. Pelletier
    • 1
  • S. Roy
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre Océanographique de RimouskiINRS-OcéanologieRimouskiCanada

Personalised recommendations