Distribution of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and
tributyltin (TBT) in Barcelona harbour sediments and their
impact on benthic communities
, Oriol Gibert
, Vicens Martı
, Sergi Dı
, Javier Romo
Josep Maria Bayona
, Joan de Pablo
Environmental Technology Area, CTM-UPC, Avda. Bases de Manresa 1, 08240 Manresa, Spain
Environmental Chemistry Department, IIQAB-CSIC, c/Jordi Girona 18-26, 08034 Barcelona, Spain
Environmental Geology Department, ICTJA-CSIC, Lluis Sole´ i Sabarı´s, s/n, 08028 Barcelona, Spain
Environmental Service of Barcelona Harbour Authority, Carretera de la Circumval$lacio´, s/n, Tram VI, Sector 6, Barcelona, Spain
Received 11 February 2006; received in revised form 31 October 2006; accepted 13 November 2006
A possible correlation exists between TBT concentration in sediments and ecological effects on benthos in Barcelona harbour.
Sediments have long been recognised as a sink for many contaminants like polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and tributyltin (TBT),
which by virtue of their nature can strongly adsorb onto sediments affecting the benthic community inhabiting them. Using geographical infor-
mation systems, this study reports and combines the results of several already existing studies along Barcelona harbour in order to assess the
potential ecological impacts of these contaminants on the benthos of the harbour ecosystem. Chemical analysis indicated low to moderate con-
tents of PAHs and high contents of TBT in sediments in Barcelona harbour. Comparison against existing sediment quality guidelines (SQGs)
indicated that acutely toxic effects would not be expected for PAHs but for TBT, which represents a serious environmental threat for the benthic
community. Benthos surveys revealed a deterioration of the benthic community throughout the harbour, especially in the inner port.
Ó 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Tributyltin; Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons; Marine Biotic Index; Ecological risk assessment in benthos; Harbour sediment; Barcelona harbour
Due to their activities and local hydrodynamics, harbour
facilities are among the most altered coastal areas. Contributors
of pollution in harbours are the release of petroleum-
derived hydrocarbons (i.e. releases from engines, operational
discharges from tankers, leaky tanks, accidental spills, etc.) and
antifouling paints from ship hulls and other immersed structures.
Although both stricter regulations and advances in transport tech-
nology have considerably reduced deliberate releases and acciden-
tal spills, low but persistent doses of these contaminants may
become a more important threat to living biota than spectacular ac-
ez et al., 2002; Stronkhorst and Van Hattum, 2003).
Barcelona harbour (41
E) is one of the biggest
ports on the Mediterranean Sea in terms of cargo (>34 mil-
lions tons), passenger (1,870,000 passengers) and trafﬁc ves-
sels (9000 vessel arrivals) in 2003. The harbour covers
a water surface area of 380 ha with 20 km of piers and docks
and a breakwater 4 km in length. It is bordered by a city of
1.5 million inhabitants, while the population of the metropol-
itan area is 4.7 million. The inner dock (Port Vell) shelters the
yachting and recreational boating harbour.
The contaminants potentially harmful to the Barcelona har-
bour ecosystem considered in this study were polycyclic aro-
matic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and tributyltin (TBT). PAHs are
ubiquitous contaminants in the marine environment,
* Corresponding author. Tel.: þ34 93 877 7373; fax: þ34 93 877 7374.
E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org (V. Martı
0269-7491/$ - see front matter Ó 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Environmental Pollution 149 (2007) 104e113