The effects of ultraviolet radiation and climate on oil toxicity to coral reef organisms – a review

Nordborg, F. Mikaela, Jones, Ross J., Oelgemöller, Michael, and Negri, Andrew P. (2020) The effects of ultraviolet radiation and climate on oil toxicity to coral reef organisms – a review. Science of the Total Environment, 720. 137486.

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Oil pollution remains a significant local threat to shallow tropical coral reef environments, but the environmental conditions typical of coral reefs are rarely considered in oil toxicity testing and risk assessments. Here we review the effects of three environmental co-factors on petroleum oil toxicity towards coral reef organisms, and show that the impacts of oil pollution on coral reef taxa can be exacerbated by environmental conditions commonly encountered in tropical reef environments. Shallow reefs are routinely exposed to high levels of ultraviolet radiation (UVR), which can substantially increase the toxicity of some oil components through phototoxicity. Exposure to UVR represents the most likely and harmful environmental co-factor reviewed here, leading to an average toxicity increase of 7.2-fold across all tests reviewed. The clear relevance of UVR co-exposure and its strong influence on tropical reef oil toxicity highlights the need to account for UVR as a standard practice in future oil toxicity studies. Indeed, quantifying the influence of UVR on toxic thresholds of oil to coral reef species is essential to develop credible oil spill risk models required for oil extraction developments, shipping management and spill responses in the tropics. The few studies available indicate that co-exposure to elevated temperature and low pH, both within the range of current daily and seasonal fluctuations and/or projected under continued climate change, can increase oil toxicity on average by 3.0- and 1.3-fold, respectively. While all three of the reviewed environmental co-factors have the potential to substantially increase the impacts of oil pollution in shallow reef environments, their simultaneous effects have not been investigated. Assessments of the combined effects of oil pollution, UVR, temperature and low pH will become increasingly important to identify realistic hazard thresholds suitable for future risk assessments over the coming century.

Item ID: 62449
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1879-1026
Keywords: Tropical; Oil pollution; Cumulative impacts; Petroleum hydrocarbon; Temperature; Climate change
Copyright Information: © 2020 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license ( lists available atScienceDirectScience of the Total Environmentjournal
Funders: Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), James Cook University (JCU), Australian Government (AG)
Date Deposited: 09 Mar 2020 04:14
FoR Codes: 34 CHEMICAL SCIENCES > 3405 Organic chemistry > 340505 Physical organic chemistry @ 100%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970103 Expanding Knowledge in the Chemical Sciences @ 100%
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