Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons alter the structure of oceanic and oligotrophic microbial food webs

Maria Isabel Cerezo, Susana Agusti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


One way organic pollutants reach remote oceanic regions is by atmospheric transport. During the Malaspina-2010 expedition, across the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans, we analyzed the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) effects on oceanic microbial food webs. We performed perturbation experiments adding PAHs to classic dilution experiments. The phytoplankton growth rates were reduced by more than 5 times, being Prochlorococcus spp. the most affected. 62% of the experiments showed a reduction in the grazing rates due to the presence of PAHs. For the remaining experiments, grazing usually increased likely due to cascading effects. We identified changes in the slope of the relation between the growth rate and the dilution fraction induced by the pollutants, moving from no grazing to V-shape, or to negative slope, indicative of grazing increase by cascade effects and alterations of the grazers' activity structure. Our perturbation experiments indicate that PAHs could influence the structure oceanic food-webs structure.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)726-735
Number of pages10
JournalMarine Pollution Bulletin
Issue number2
StatePublished - Nov 6 2015

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledgements: Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad[CTM2012-32603]


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