Toxicity of natural mixtures of organic pollutants in temperate and polar marine phytoplankton

Semivolatile and persistent organic pollutants (POPs) undergo atmospheric transport before being deposited to the oceans, where they partition to phytoplankton organic matter. The goal of this study was to determine the toxicity of naturally occurring complex mixtures of organic pollutants to temperate and polar phytoplankton communities from the Mediterranean Sea, the North East (NE) Atlantic, and Southern Oceans. The cell abundance of the different phytoplankton groups, chlorophyll a concentrations, viability of the cells, and growth and decay constants were monitored in response to addition of a range of concentrations of mixtures of organic pollutants obtained from seawater extracts. Almost all of the phytoplankton groups were significantly affected by the complex mixtures of non-polar and polar organic pollutants, with toxicity being greater for these mixtures than for single POPs or simple POP mixtures. Cocktails' toxicity arose at concentrations as low as tenfold the field oceanic levels, probably due to a higher chemical activity of the mixture than of simple POPs mixtures. Overall, smaller cells were the most affected, although Mediterranean picophytoplankton was significantly more tolerant to non-polar POPs than picophytoplankton from the Atlantic Ocean or the Bellingshausen Sea microphytoplankton. © 2016 Elsevier B.V.

Echeveste P, Galbán-Malagón C, Dachs J, Berrojalbiz N, Agustí S (2016) Toxicity of natural mixtures of organic pollutants in temperate and polar marine phytoplankton. Science of The Total Environment 571: 34–41. Available:

This work was supported by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation through the RODA (CTM2004-06842-C03-02/MAR) and ATOS projects (POL2006-00550/CTM) and the European Commission through the SESAME project P.E., N.B. and C.G.M. acknowledge predoctoral fellowship from the Balearic government, Basque government and Spanish government, respectively. We are grateful to the crew aboard the Hesperides research vessel for their help during the cruises. We thank N. Salaberry for the English corrections.

Elsevier BV

Science of The Total Environment


PubMed ID

Permanent link to this record