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Aliphatic and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in the surface sediments from the Eastern Aegean: assessment and source recognition of petroleum hydrocarbons

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Materials and methods

Aliphatic and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) were determined in surficial sediments from the Aegean Sea in the Eastern Mediterranean in 2008.


Total aliphatic hydrocarbons (n-C12 to n-C35) ranged from 330 to 2,660 ng g-1 dry weight (dwt), while aromatics (19 PAHs) varied between 73.5 and 2,170 ng g-1 dwt. Total concentrations of both aliphatic hydrocarbons and PAHs ranged from a relatively low to a moderate PAHs pollution compared to other urbanized coastal areas worldwide. PAH consisted mainly of pyrolytic four- to five-ring compounds. Both pyrolytic and petrogenic PAHs are present in most samples, although petroleum-derived PAH are dominant at Izmir Inner Bay (IIB) and Dardanelles Strait, and pyrolytic sources are prevalent in other sampling sites. A high contribution of perylene, a diagenetic originated PAH, to the total penta PAHs was found greater than 70% in Meric River Estuary, Dikili Bay, Candarli Bay, and Gokova Bay sites.


The spatial distributions of aliphatic hydrocarbons and PAHs indicated that urban runoff and transport from the continental shelf is the major input pathway of anthropogenic and biogenic hydrocarbons from terrestrial sources in the near-shore area. PAH levels at all sites were below the effects range-low (ERL) and effects range-median (ERM) values except fluorene. The average and maximum fluorene concentrations exceeded ERL, but below ERM, in the IIB. Meanwhile, the concentration levels of naphthalene, fluorene, phenanthrene, fluoranthene, pyrene, benzo[a]anthracene, and chrysene were higher than threshold effect level values at the same site, but all these compounds were significantly lower than the probable effect level values. The results indicated that the sediments should have potential biological impact.

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The samples were collected in the framework of the IMST-165 (2008) project supported by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry. The authors express gratitude to the scientists and crew of the R/V K. Piri Reis for their assistance during the sediment sampling. We are also grateful to marine chemistry department for their valuable assistance to perform chemical analysis. The authors also extend great appreciation to the constructive comments from anonymous reviewers.

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Correspondence to L. Tolga Gonul.

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Responsible editor: Philippe Garrigues

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Gonul, L.T., Kucuksezgin, F. Aliphatic and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in the surface sediments from the Eastern Aegean: assessment and source recognition of petroleum hydrocarbons. Environ Sci Pollut Res 19, 31–41 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-011-0524-2

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  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
  • Aliphatic hydrocarbons
  • Sediment
  • Pollution
  • Molecular ratios
  • Eastern Aegean Sea