Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics

Small oil spills affect life in North Sea

29 April 2016

A team of European researchers, including Corina Brussaard of UvA-IBED and the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ), found that frequent small oil spills have immediate negative effects on life in the North Sea. The results were published in Nature Communications earlier this month.

Unique approach

The study used an unique approach whereby two pre-approved controlled disposals of 5 tons of crude oil were made. The effects of these disposals were monitored from the NIOZ research vessel Pelagia. As an effect of the disposals, variety in species shifted and the proportion of cyano bacteria increased. Results of bacterial bioreporter assays and other bio-assays carried out on board the ship showed an immediate toxic effect of the oil which dissolved in the water. These results are not only relevant for small oil disposals, but also for the immediate effects after a large oil spill, because these are usually not monitored.

The frequency with which small oil spills occur will only increase with the frequency of oil transport over sea and marine oil-explorations. The study shows that oil spills, even when no longer visible, can still be detected. This could benefit a quick and effective resolution of oil spills.

See also

Publication details

Immediate ecotoxicological effects of short-lived oil spills on marine biota. C.P.D Brussaard, L. Peperzak, S. Beggah, L.Y. Wick, B. Wuerz, J.Weber, J. Samuel Arey, B.van der Burg, A. Jonas, J. Huisman, J.R. van der Meer. Nature Communications,

Source: Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research

Published by  Faculty of Science