Marine snow aggregates are enriched in polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in oil contaminated waters: Insights from a mesocosm study


Marine snow was implicated in the transport of oil to the seafloor during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, but the exact processes remain controversial. In this study, we investigated the concentrations and distributions of the 16 USEPA priority polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in marine snow aggregates collected during a mesocosm experiment. Seawater only, oil in a water accommodated fraction (WAF), and Corexit-enhanced WAF (DCEWAF) were incubated for 16 d. Both WAF and DCEWAF aggregates were enriched in heavy molecular weight PAHs but depleted in naphthalene. DCEWAF aggregates had 2.6 times more total 16 PAHs than the WAF (20.5 vs. 7.8 μg/g). Aggregates in the WAF and DCEWAF incorporated 4.4% and 19.3%, respectively of the total PAHs in the mesocosm tanks. Our results revealed that marine snow sorbed and scavenged heavy molecular weight PAHs in the water column and the application of Corexit enhanced the incorporation of PAHs into the sinking aggregates.

Journal of Marine Science and Engineering, 8: 781