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Recovery simulations of grossly polluted sediments in the Bilbao Estuary
Gonzalez Oreja, J.A.; Saiz Salinas, J.I. (2003). Recovery simulations of grossly polluted sediments in the Bilbao Estuary. Mar. Pollut. Bull. 46: 42-48
In: Marine Pollution Bulletin. Macmillan: London. ISSN 0025-326X; e-ISSN 1879-3363, more
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  • Gonzalez Oreja, J.A.
  • Saiz Salinas, J.I., more

    The Bilbao Estuary is one of the most contaminated estuaries on the north coast of Spain, and vast efforts have been made to abate pollution there. In fact, the local water authority has forecast biological recovery of the native fauna after substantial increase in dissolved oxygen to normoxic levels. In order to assess this prediction by evaluating the extent of natural regeneration of these polluted sediments, two long-term bioassays (t ¼ 90 d) were performed. In both of them, lethal (differences in survival) and sublethal (differences in length and weight growth) effects were measured by using juvenile individuals of the autochthonous clam, Scrobicularia plana (Da Costa, 1778). The sediments tested differed in pollution levels, as measured by set of indicators including PAHs, PCBs, heavy metals, volatile organic matter and coprostanol. All sediments were finally exposed to normoxic conditions in situ in the Bilbao Estuary (DO ~ 6.3 mg l-1). In the first experiment, concerning moderately polluted sediments from the Bilbao Estuary and reference sediments from the “pristine” Plentzia Estuary, no significant differences (P >0 :05) were found regarding animal survival (94.5%) or growth in length or weight between the sediments tested. In the second experiment, also involving grossly polluted sediments (GPS) from the Bilbao Estuary, survival (24.5%) was statistically lower (P <0 :05) than in the other sediments (93%). No significant differences were found in growth (length, weight) between animals exposed to moderately polluted or reference sediments. We interpret this dramatic difference in survival as the lethal effect on the animals tested of the GPS of the Bilbao Estuary, indicating situation where biological recovery is not possible due to the adverse consequences of contaminants sorbed into sediments. The extensive use of this inexpensive bioassay could help to distinguish sediments in which homeostatic recovery is possible from grossly polluted “hot spots”, which need costly remedial actions.

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