Phototoxic effects of two common marine fuels on the settlement success of the coral Acropora tenuis

F. Mikaela Nordborg*, Florita Flores, Diane L. Brinkman, Susana Agustí, Andrew P. Negri

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Coral reefs are at risk of exposure to petroleum hydrocarbons from shipping spills and uncontrolled discharges during extraction. The toxicity of petroleum hydrocarbons can substantially increase in the presence of ultraviolet radiation (UVR), therefore spills in shallow coral reef environments may be particularly hazardous to reef species. Here we investigated the sensitivity of coral larvae (Acropora tenuis) to dissolved hydrocarbons from heavy fuel oil (HFO) and diesel in the absence and presence of UVR. Larval settlement success decreased with increasing concentrations of dissolved HFO, and co-exposure to UVR doubled the toxicity: 50% effect concentrations (EC50) decreased from 96 (-UVR) to 51 (+UVR) total petroleum aromatic hydrocarbons (TPAH). Toxic thresholds for HFO were similar to concentrations reported during marine spills: EC10s of 24 (-UVR) and 15 (+UVR) μg l-1. While less toxic, diesel also reduced settlement and exhibited phototoxicity: EC10s of 122 (+UVR) and 302 (-UVR) μg l-1. This study demonstrates that the presence of UVR increases the hazard posed by oil pollution to tropical, shallow-water coral reefs. Further research on the effects of oils in the presence of UVR is needed to improve the environmental relevance of risk assessments and ensure appropriate protection for shallow reef environments against oil pollution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number8635
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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