Hydrophobic contaminants, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) readily adsorb to organic matter. The aim of this study was to determine the importance of the quality of sedimentary organic matter for the uptake, biotransformation and toxicity of the PAH, fluoranthene (Flu), in the infaunal brittle star Amphiura filiformis. Brittle stars were exposed to a base sediment covered by a 2 cm Flu-spiked top layer (30 μg Flu/g dry wt. sed.), enriched to the same total organic carbon content with either refractory or labile organic matter. The labile carbon source was concentrated green flagellate: Tetraselmis spp. The refractory carbon source was lignin from a paper mill. Tissue concentrations of Flu both in disk and arm-fractions were determined as total Flu, parent Flu (i.e. untransformed), aqueous Flu-metabolites, polar Flu-metabolites and tissue residue Flu (i.e. unextractable). Our results showed that sediment particle ingestion is a pathway by which Flu can enter benthic food webs. Flu toxicity (measured as arm-regeneration), but not net accumulation, was dependent on the nutritional quality of the ingested sediment particles. Flu bioaccumulation could not be attributed solely to equilibrium partitioning between organism lipid content and organic content of the sediment. Biotransformation of Flu by brittle stars was very limited and unaffected by organic matter quality. A. filiformis contributed to the downward transport of Flu from the surface sediment to the burrow lining. The limited breakdown of parent Flu by brittle stars and/or microorganisms was relatively higher in burrows compared to surface sediment, and highest in the presence of labile organic matter. Tissue concentrations were higher in disk than in arms, but the proportion of metabolic products relative to parent Flu was higher in arms than in the disk fraction. We estimate that the yearly mobilization of sediment-associated Flu by arm-regeneration in A. filiformis is in the range of 3.8-29.4 μg total Flu eq. m-2 year-1 at a sediment concentration of 30 μg Flu/g dry wt. sed.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This study was in part funded by a Ph.D. fellowship from Roskilde University to Henriette Selck and by a grant to Henriette Selck (LSF P.44) from the European Commission. We are grateful to Rikke Hansen for analysis of sediment organic carbon and nitrogen and for stimulating discussions, to Jonas Gunnarsson for comments on an earlier version of this manuscript and to Lise Maarup for laboratory assistance.
- Deposit feeders
- Organic carbon quality
- Sediment contamination