Effects of black carbon on bioturbination-induced benthic fluxes of polychlorinated biphenyls

A.A. Koelmans, M.T.O. Jonker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


It is unknown whether carbonaceous geosorbents, such as black carbon (BC) affect bioturbation by benthic invertebrates, thereby possibly affecting sediment–water exchange of sediment-bound contaminants. Here, we assess the effects of oil soot on polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) mass transfer from sediment to overlying water, for sediments with and without tubificid oligochaeta as bioturbators. PCB levels were so low that toxicity to the oligochaeta played no role, whereas soot levels and binding affinity of PCBs to soot were so low that pore water PCB concentrations were not significantly affected by binding of PCBs to soot. This setup left direct effects of BC on bioturbation activity as the only explanation for any observed effects on mass transfer. Mass transfer coefficients (KL) for benthic boundary layer transport were measured by a novel flux method using Empore™ disks as a sink for PCBs in the overlying water. For the PCBs studied (logKow 5.2–8.2), KL values ranged from 0.2 to 2 cm × d-1 in systems without tubificids. Systems with tubificids showed KL values that were a factor of 10–25 higher. However, in the presence of oil soot, tubificids did not cause an increase in mass transfer coefficients. This suggests that at BC levels as encountered under field conditions, the mechanism for reduction of sediment–water transfer of contaminants may be twofold: (a) reduced mass transfer due to strong binding of the contaminants to BC, and (b) reduced mass transfer of contaminants due to a decrease in bioturbation activity. Highlights We measured sediment to water fluxes for polychlorobiphenyls (PCBs). ¿ PCB fluxes were induced using Empore disks as a sink in the overlying water. ¿ PCB fluxes were higher in the presence of bioturbators. ¿ PCB fluxes were not higher in the presence of black carbon and bioturbators.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1150-1157
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • polycyclic aromatic-hydrocarbons
  • solid-phase extraction
  • contaminated sediments
  • activated carbon
  • chlorinated hydrocarbons
  • reduce pcb
  • water
  • bioaccumulation
  • sorption
  • release

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