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Are deep-sea organisms dwelling within a submarine canyon more at risk from anthropogenic contamination than those from the adjacent open slope? A case study of Blanes canyon (NW Mediterranean)

August 20, 2013

Due to their geomophormological structure and proximity to the coastline, submarine canyons may act as natural conduit routes for anthropogenic contaminants that are transported from surface waters to the deep-sea. Organisms dwelling in these canyon environments might thus be at risk of experiencing adverse health effects due to higher pollution exposure. To address this question, chemical and biochemical analyses were conducted on two of the most abundant deep-sea fish species in the study area, namely Alepocephalus rostratus andLepidion lepidion, and the most abundant deep-sea commercial decapod crustacean Aristeus antennatus sampled inside Blanes canyon (BC) and on the adjacent open slope (OS). Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) levels, including polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB), dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) and derivatives, hexachlorocyclohexanes (HCHs) and hexaclorobenzene (HCB) were determined in muscle tissue of selected samples from 900 m and 1500 m depth. Potential effects resulting from contaminant exposure were determined using hepatic biomarkers such as ethoxyresorufin-O-deethylase (EROD), pentoxyresorufin-O-deethylase (PROD), catalase (CAT), carboxylesterase (CbE), glutathione-S-transferase (GST), total glutathione peroxidase (GPX), glutathione reductase (GR) and superoxide-dismutase (SOD) enzyme activities and lipid peroxidation levels (LP). L. lepidion and A. antennatus tissues exhibited higher POP levels inside BC compared to the OS at 900 m depth. These findings were consistent with biomarker data (i.e. enzymatic response to presence of contaminant agents). Elevated xenobiotic-metabolizing (EROD and PROD) and antioxidant enzymes (CAT and GPX) indicated higher contaminant exposure in both species caught within BC. No difference in POP accumulation between sites was observed in L. lepidion at 1500 m depth, nor in biomarker data, suggesting that the pollution gradient was less pronounced at greater depths. This trend was further corroborated by the results obtained for A. rostratus at 1500 m depth. Hence, the present findings suggest the, at least temporary, existence of a pollution gradient between Blanes canyon and the open slope at shallower depths and this resulted in alterations of the physiology of deep-sea organisms dwelling within this area.

Koenig S, Fernández P, Company J B, Huertas D, Solé M, in press. Are deep-sea organisms dwelling within a submarine canyon more at risk from anthropogenic contamination than those from the adjacent open slope? A case study of Blanes canyon (NW Mediterranean), Progress in Oceanography, 2013, doi:10.1016/j.pocean.2013.07.016. Article.

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