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Sensitivity and response of Antarctic moss and terrestrial algae to fuel contamination

Sensitivity and response of Antarctic moss and terrestrial algae to fuel contamination
Anna Nydahl


Anna Nydahl, Sharon A. Robinson, Dianne F. Jolley
University of Wollongong, New South Wales 2522, Australia

Catherine K. King, Jane Wasley
Australian Antarctic Division, Kingston, Tasmania 7050, Australia


Numerous fuel spills associated with human activities in Antarctica have occurred and significant levels of petroleum hydrocarbon contamination have been reported near Antarctic stations. A comprehensive remediation strategy has recently been established to clean-up a fuel spill that occurred at Australia’s Casey Station in 1999, however currently there are no set end points for this remediation to enable the site to be “signed off” as remediated. As it is difficult and extremely costly to clean contaminated soils to pristine levels, realistic levels of petroleum hydrocarbon that Antarctic biota can tolerate need to be identified. This study aims to determine the threshold concentrations of Special Antarctic Blend (SAB) diesel in contaminated soils for vegetation around Casey Station and to develop routine toxicity tests with common Antarctic terrestrial flora that can be used to develop remediation targets applicable throughout Antarctica. Toxicity tests will involve growing Antarctic flora (mosses and terrestrial algae) on soil spiked with SAB at concentrations of 0, 1,250, 2,500, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000, 25,000, 30,000, 35,000 and 40,000 mg/kg. These concentrations are within the range reported at contaminated sites in Antarctica. Exposed flora will be kept at a constant temperature of 15°C with a photoperiod of 16 hours. Four parameters will be measured to determine response to contaminant exposure; chlorophyll fluorescence; amount and ratio of photosynthetic pigments (chlorophyll a andb); visual health and; growth (dry mass). Estimates of toxicity from these experiments will be determined and used to derive remediation targets that are protective of Antarctic ecosystems.

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This page was last modified on 23 September 2013.