Role of environmental factors and microorganisms in determining the fate of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in the marine environment

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Abstract

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are widespread in marine ecosystems and originate from natural sources and anthropogenic activities. PAHs enter the marine environment in two main ways, corresponding to chronic pollution or acute pollution by oil spills. The global PAH fluxes in marine environments are controlled by the microbial degradation and the biological pump, which plays a role in particle settling and in sequestration through bioaccumulation. Due to their low water solubility and hydrophobic nature, PAHs tightly adhere to sediments leading to accumulation in coastal and deep sediments. Microbial assemblages play an important role in determining the fate of PAHs in water and sediments, supporting the functioning of biogeochemical cycles and the microbial loop. This review summarises the knowledge recently acquired in terms of both chronic and acute PAH pollution. The importance of the microbial ecology in PAH-polluted marine ecosystems is highlighted as well as the importance of gaining further in-depth knowledge of the environmental services provided by microorganisms.

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