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Evaluation of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon Pollution From the HMS Royal Oak Shipwreck and Effects on Sediment Microbial Community Structure

Thomas, Gareth E and Bolam, Stefan G and Brant, Jan L and Brash, Rodney and Goodsir, Freya and Hynes, Clare and McGenity, Terry J and McIlwaine, Paul SO and McKew, Boyd A (2021) 'Evaluation of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon Pollution From the HMS Royal Oak Shipwreck and Effects on Sediment Microbial Community Structure.' Frontiers in Marine Science, 8. ISSN 2296-7745

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Abstract

Despite many shipwrecks containing oil there is a paucity of studies investigating their impact on surrounding environments. This study evaluates any potential effect the World War II shipwreck HMS Royal Oak is having on surrounding benthic sediments in Scapa Flow, Scotland. HMS (Her Majesty’s Ship) <jats:italic>Royal Oak</jats:italic> sank in 1939, subsequently leaked oil in the 1960s and 1990s, and is estimated to still hold 697 tonnes of fuel oil. In this study, sediments were analysed, over a 17.5 cm depth profile, along a 50–950 m cruciform transect away from the shipwreck. Analysis of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) revealed low concentrations (205.91 ± 50.15 μg kg‾¹ of dry sediment), which did not significantly differ with either distance from the shipwreck or sediment depth. PAH concentrations were well below the effects-range low (ERL) for the OSPAR (Oslo/Paris convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic) maritime area. The average Pyrogenic Index, in sediments around HMS Royal Oak, was 1.06 (±0.34), indicating PAHs were pyrogenic rather than petrogenic. Moreover, analysis of sediment microbiomes revealed no significant differences in bacterial community structure with distance from the shipwreck, with extremely low levels of obligate hydrocarbonoclastic bacteria (OHCB; 0.21% ± 0.54%). Both lines of evidence suggest that sampled sediments are not currently being impacted by petrogenic hydrocarbons and show no long-term impact by previous oil-spills from HMS Royal Oak

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: HMS Royal Oak, oil spill, PAH, Scapa Flow, OHCB, sediment, shipwreck
Divisions: Faculty of Science and Health > Life Sciences, School of
Depositing User: Elements
Date Deposited: 20 May 2021 09:27
Last Modified: 25 Jun 2021 14:20
URI: http://repository.essex.ac.uk/id/eprint/30198

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