Biodegradation of Dispersed Oil in natural Seawaters from Western Greenland and a Norwegian fjord
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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With increasing oil exploration, production and transportation in the Arctic, predictions of the fate of spilled oil become important, including oil compound biodegradation. The use of chemical dispersants may result in increased biodegradation due to the generation of dispersions consisting of small oil droplets, but only few studies have focused on biodegradation of chemically dispersed oil in Arctic seawater. In this study we compared oil biotransformation in Arctic and temperate seawaters collected from Western Greenland (Disko Bay, surface and from 80 m depth) and a Norwegian fjord (Trondheimsfjord, surface). A naphthenic oil, premixed with a dispersant, was dispersed in the seawaters from the different sources, and the dispersions incubated in low concentrations in a carousel system at 4–5 °C for up to 64 days. Targeted oil compounds (n-alkanes, BTEX, naphthalenes and PAHs) were biotransformed in both Arctic and temperate seawaters, although the degradation was faster in the temperate seawater. In the Arctic seawater, transformation was faster in the surface than in the subsurface seawater. Calculations of biotransformation rates and half-lives of oil compound groups representing 70–80% of fresh oils also showed significantly faster depletion in the temperate than the Arctic seawater. Microbial analyses revealed differences between the bacterial communities in the seawater sources during oil biodegradation. The results emphasized, that oil compounds are biodegraded in Arctic seawater, but degradation potential and rates may vary between seawaters from different sources.