Evaluation of the influence of black carbon on the distribution of PAHs in sediments from along the entire Swedish continental shelf

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Sánchez García, L., Cato, I., Gustafsson, Ö. 2010. Evaluation of the influence of black carbon on the distribution of PAHs in sediments from along the entire Swedish continental shelf. Marine Chemistry 119, 1-4, 44-51 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marchem.2009.12.005

A growing literature proposes that combusted-derived black carbon (BC) dominates the sorption and, by inference, the environmental distribution and bioavailability of many hydrophobic pollutant classes. There is a paucity of studies simultaneously evaluating the distribution of both BC geosorbents and pollutant sorbates in the actual field. Here, 120 surface sediments collected by the Geological Survey of Sweden along the 2000 km continental shelf along the Swedish coast facilitated evaluation of the relative influences of BC and non-BC organic carbon (OC) on the spatial distribution of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).

The sum of 15 out of the 16 EPA PAHs ranged from 0.12 to 9.6 μg/g dry weight (dw), with the highest levels being found in the southern half of the Swedish Shelf (SS) area and in the vicinity of larger cities (Stockholm, Göteborg, Malmö and Umeå). Source-diagnostic PAH ratios such as ANT/(PHE + ANT), FLT/(FLT + PYR), BaA/(BaA + BPE), IPY/(IPY + BPE), CombPAH/ΣPAH and LMW/HMW suggested that pyrogenic sources are dominating the load of PAHs in Swedish Baltic and North Sea sediments. The sediment TOC was 4.8–168 mg/gdw (median 43 mg/gdw), while a BC concentration of 0.6–18 mg/gdw (median 1.8 mg/gdw) yielded BC:TOC ratios spanning a wide range of 1.7–47% (median 4.6%).

Empirical distribution function tests indicated that the use of linear regression statistics was inappropriate. Instead, evaluation with the non-parametric Spearman function yielded higher correlation coefficient (rS) for total PAHs versus BC (0.54, p < 0.01) than versus either TOC (0.28, p < 0.01) or OC (TOC-BC; 0.26, p < 0.01). The results from this field study, encompassing an order of magnitude more observations than any previous sediment study, constitute a broad field manifestation of the importance of BC in affecting the distribution of planar aromatic pollutants in aquatic environments.

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