Toxic anthropogenic signature in Antarctic continental shelf and deep sea sediments


Enrique Isla, Elisabet Pérez-Albaladejo & Cinta Porte.


Industrial activity generates harmful substances which can travel via aerial or water currents thousands of kilometers away from the place they were used impacting the local biota where they deposit. The presence of harmful anthropogenic substances in the Antarctic is particularly surprising and striking due to its remoteness and the apparent geophysical isolation developed with the flows of the Antarctic Circumpolar current and the ring of westerly winds surrounding the continent. However, long-range atmospheric transport (LRAT) of pollutants has been detected in the Antarctic since the 70’s along the Antarctic trophic food web from phytoplankton to birds. Still, no information exists on the presence of cytotoxic compounds in marine sediments neither at basin scales (thousands of kilometers) nor in water depths (hundreds of meters) beyond shallow coastal areas near research stations. Our results showed for the first time that there is cytotoxic activity in marine sediment extracts from water depths >1000 m and along thousands of kilometers of Antarctic continental shelf, in some cases comparable to that observed in Mediterranean areas. Ongoing anthropogenic pressure appears as a serious threat to the sessile benthic communities, which have evolved in near isolation for millions of years in these environments.



Posted on

April 23, 2019