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Chemical and biological weathering of oil, from the Amoco Cadiz spillage, within the littoral zone

Authors
Journal
Estuarine Coastal and Shelf Science
0272-7714
Publisher
Elsevier
Publication Date
Volume
12
Issue
5
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1016/s0302-3524(81)80085-0
Keywords
  • Oil Spills
  • Microbial Degradation
  • Littoral Zones
  • Oil Pollution
  • Sediments
  • Hydrocarbons
  • Intertidal Environment
  • English Channel
Disciplines
  • Biology
  • Chemistry

Abstract

The spillage of oil from the wreck of the supertanker Amoco Cadiz resulted in massive oiling of the littoral zone along 320 km of shoreline of the Brittany Coast. This study examined the fate of Amoco Cadiz oil which entered the intertidal zone. Biodegradation by indigenous microbial populations was an extremely important process in the weathering of the oil. Alkanes were preferentially degraded but branched alkanes and polynuclear aromatic compounds also were subject to microbial attack. The chemical evolution of the residual ‘hydrocarbon mixture’ within the littoral zone led to a relative enrichment of isoprenoid alkanes, naphtheno-aromatic and napthenic compounds, alkylated phenanthrenes, aromatic organic sulfur compounds e.g. dibenzothiophenes, hopanes and C 27−C 31 alkanes. These classes of compounds appear to be most resistant to biological and chemical weathering. Continued inputs of relatively unweathered oil, which may be preserved in subsurface anaerobic sediments, and pooling of oil becomes increasingly important with time, producing a patchy distribution of oil, which has been weathered to varying degrees. The presence of hydrocarbons within the littoral zone, as a highly weathered residual oil, appears to be a long lived (multi-year) phenomenon.

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