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Aquatic Microbial Ecology

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AME 59:169-183 (2010)  -  DOI:

Changes in bacterial activity and community composition caused by exposure to a simulated oil spill in microcosm and mesocosm experiments

Itziar Lekunberri1,*, Alejandra Calvo-Díaz2, Eva Teira3, Xosé Anxelu G. Morán2, Francesc Peters1, Mar Nieto-Cid4,5, Oscar Espinoza-González4, Isabel G. Teixeira4, Josep M. Gasol1,**

1Departament de Biologia Marina i Oceanografia, Institut de Ciències del Mar-CSIC, 08003 Barcelona, Catalunya, Spain
2Instituto Español de Oceanografía-Xixón, 33212 Xixón, Spain
3Departamento de Ecoloxía e Bioloxía Animal, Universidade de Vigo, 36310 Vigo, Spain
4Instituto de Investigaciones Marinas-CSIC, Eduardo Cabello s/n, 36208 Vigo, Spain
5Present address: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Watson Building 115, Woods Hole, Massachusetts 02543, USA
Corresponding authors. *Email: ;**Email:

ABSTRACT: We studied the effects of the Prestige oil spill on Ría de Vigo bacterial abundance, production and community structure by using mesocosms (ca. 3500 l) filled with water from the center of the Ría, to which we added a realistic concentration of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs; initial concentrations of approximately 20 to 30 µg l–1 chrysene equivalents) at each of the 4 periods of the seasonal cycle: spring bloom, summer stratification, autumn upwelling and winter. We followed the changes in bacterial activity by leucine and thymidine incorporation, and the changes in bacterial assemblage structure by 16S rDNA DGGE. In addition, simultaneously with the winter mesocosm experiment, we ran microcosms with fuel additions equivalent to 0.5, 1, 2 and 4× the treatment imposed on the mesocosms in the seasonal experiments. Bacterial community structure was also analyzed by CARD-FISH. We detected significant effects of the PAHs on bacterial community structure (increased number of bands) and production only in the summer experiment. In the microcosm experiments, we found similar effects to those in the mesocosms at PAH concentrations of ca. 20 to 40 µg l–1, and clear detrimental effects on phytoplankton at concentrations of ca. 80 µg l–1, with large development of Gammaproteobacteria. Our results indicate that an oil spill of the Prestige’s magnitude will have effects on the microbial resident community only at certain times of the year, while at higher PAH concentrations the effects might be more evident. For most of the year, the resident Ría de Vigo microbial communities appear to be accustomed to PAH concentrations such as those used in these experiments.

KEY WORDS: PAHs · Bacterioplankton · Production · Bacterial community structure · Mesocosms · Prestige oil

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Cite this article as: Lekunberri I, Calvo-Díaz A, Teira E, Morán XAG and others (2010) Changes in bacterial activity and community composition caused by exposure to a simulated oil spill in microcosm and mesocosm experiments. Aquat Microb Ecol 59:169-183.

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