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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 188:1-11 (1999)  -  doi:10.3354/meps188001

Long-term effects of tri-n-butyl-tin on the function of a marine sediment system

I. Dahllöf1,*, H. Blanck2, P. O. J. Hall1, S. Molander3

1Department of Analytical and Marine Chemistry, Göteborg University, 412 96 Göteborg, Sweden
2Department of Plant Physiology, Göteborg University, Box 461, 405 30 Göteborg, Sweden
3Department of Technical Environmental Planning, Chalmers University of Technology, 412 96 Göteborg, Sweden

ABSTRACT: The effect of tri-n-butyl-tin (TBT) was studied in a 5 mo experiment using intact coastal sediment communities in a boxcosm system. TBT-spiked sediment was added in a geometrical series between 0.0065 and 300 µmol TBT m-2 to a sediment that already had a background TBT concentration. Fluxes of ammonium, nitrate, phosphate, silicate and oxygen were used as effect indicators for the entire sediment system, integrating the function of all fauna and micro-organisms present. Changes in flux patterns were analysed in order to evaluate the effect of TBT on the whole sediment system using a non-parametric analysis of similarities (ANOSIM), based on Bray-Curtis similarity indices. Effects were seen at the lowest additions of 6.5 nmol TBT m-2 as changes in flux pattern compared to the control sediments. The separate nutrient fluxes were also evaluated, showing an early response in a reduced ammonium flux and a stimulated nitrate flux for most of the TBT additions. The initial response indicated immediate effects on the microbial part of the sediment community. The fluxes changed with time in all sediment boxes, but the changes were different in sediments with added TBT compared to the control sediment. These changes showed that the heterotrophic capability to degrade organic matter and autotrophic nitrification was reduced during the 5 mo of the experiment. In the 3 highest additions, the abundance of macrofauna was reduced at the very beginning of the experiment, whereas fauna in the intermediate additions seemed to become stressed with time as indicated by an increased oxygen consumption. This study shows that minute additions of fresh TBT to an already contaminated sediment have effects on the function of the sediment system at nominal concentrations of nmol of TBT added per square metre. These additions were well below the current detection limits for TBT in sediments.

KEY WORDS: TBT · Long-term effects · Function · Marine sediment · Nutrient and oxygen fluxes

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