Hartland, A., Zitoun, R., Middag, R., Sander, S., Laferriere, A., Saeed, H., … Ross, P. M. (2019). Aqueous copper bioavailability linked to shipwreck-contaminated reef sediments. Scientific Reports, 9. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-45911-8
Permanent Research Commons link: https://hdl.handle.net/10289/13147
Pollution from the grounding or sinking of ships can have long lasting effects on the recovery and dynamics of coastal ecosystems. Research on the impact of copper (Cu) pollution from the 2011 MV Rena shipwreck at the Astrolabe Reef (Otaiti), New Zealand, 5 years after the grounding, followed a multi-method and multi-disciplinary approach. Three independent measures of aqueous Cu using trace-element-clean-techniques substantiate the presence of high total, total dissolved (<2 µm) and elevated bioavailable Cu in the water column immediately above the aft section of the wreck where the highest sedimentary load of Cu was located. Intermittently elevated concentrations of strong Cu-binding ligands occurred in this location, and their binding strength was consistent with ligands actively produced by organisms in response to Cu induced stress. The recruitment of benthic invertebrates was modified at the high-Cu location. Taxonomic groups usually considered robust to pollution were restricted to this site (e.g. barnacles) or were the most abundant taxa present (e.g. foraminifera). Our results demonstrate that Cu-contaminated sediments can impose a persistent point source of Cu pollution in high-energy reef environments, with the potential to modify the composition and recovery of biological communities.
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