Hydrodynamic Impacts on the Fate of Polychlorinated Biphenyl 153 in the Marine Environment


Due to their long half-life, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) tend to contaminate not only coastal areas, but they travel over long distances, eventually reaching remote areas such the Arctic. The physical and biogeochemical features of every coastal area govern the main distribution patterns of freshly introduced PCBs into the marine system. Some of these processes are determined by chemical properties of the individual PCB congener. Thus, atmospheric influx along with ad/absorption on non-living organic material, photolytical and biological degradation processes vary from one PCB congener to another. For a detailed fate analysis of individual congeners, we developed a new chemical model, based on the GOTM-ECOSMO-FABM model framework. Here, we exemplarily present results for PCB153 based on 1D simulations of four regions in the North-Baltic Sea. The study area is characterized by different hydrodynamic and biogeochemical conditions. We investigate the impact of resuspension, mixing and the biological pump, sea ice and tides on the final phasal distribution of PCB153. Different combinations of these factors lead to the development of different areas of PCB153 accumulation, with the formation of hotspot areas, and influence the total uptake and concentration of PCB153 in the water column. As a result, two major dynamics determine the fate of PCB153 in the coastal ocean: (i) Primary production leads to PCB153 being adsorbed by organic material. Partitioning to organic material and sedimentation of organic particles removes dissolved PCB153 from the surface ocean and increases atmospheric influx. (ii) Tidal-induced resuspension and mixing control the benthic–pelagic exchange of PCB153 and its distribution in the water column. Depending on the resuspension regime and stratification, sediments can become a permanent (Gotland Deep, the Baltic Sea) or seasonal sink for PCB153. In regions with seasonal stratification and high near bottom turbulence (Northern North Sea), resuspension events can lead to pronounced peaks in PCB153 concentrations and can therefore have a major impact on bioaccumulation. Under the conditions of permanent mixing and high bottom turbulence (Southern North Sea, Bothnian Bay), pollutants are hardly accumulating in sediments.
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