Spatial and temporal changes in benthic communities of the Galician continental shelf after the Prestige oil spill

Alberto Serrano, Francisco Sánchez, Izaskun Preciado, Santiago Parra, Inmaculada Frutos
Marine Pollution Bulletin 2006, 53 (5): 315-31
Two years after the Prestige oil spill (POS) an assessment of the effects on benthic fauna was carried out using the data obtained in five multidisciplinary surveys. Otter trawl, beam trawl, suprabenthic sled and box corer were used to study the main benthic compartments, along eight transects perpendicular to the coastline. Beam trawl was also employed to quantify the amount of tar aggregates on the continental shelf. No significant correlations between tar aggregates and species richness, biomass and diversity of benthic communities were found. This result was corroborated when the role of depth, season, latitude and sediment characteristics was examined by canonical ordination, in which POS-related variables had low influence on spatial distribution patterns. Depth and sediment grain diameter profoundly influence epibenthic communities. Sediment organic content is a third key variable for the infaunal, suprabenthic and lower-sized epibenthic communities, but not for the larger epibenthic communities. Nevertheless, a decrease in the densities of several epibenthic indicators was detected the first year after spill, followed by a noteworthy recovery in 2004. Non-macroscopic toxicity and some oceanographic agents are suggested as possible causes of these shifts.

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