Accessible Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter March 30, 2017

Impaired growth and reproductive capacity in marine rockweeds following prolonged environmental contaminant exposure

Jessie F. Lauze and Whitney E. Hable
From the journal Botanica Marina


Intertidal macroalgae are resilient organisms, withstanding daily fluctuations in temperature, salinity and air exposure. These sessile seaweeds are exposed to anthropogenic pollution as an additional stressor in their natural habitat alongside coastal waterways, which are often adjacent to industrial centers. One such habitat in the New Bedford Harbor in Massachusetts has been recognized by government agencies as a site of National Priority after several decades of polychlorinated biphenyl and metal discharge. Research has focused on the effects of these contaminants among large-scale trophic cascades, with less emphasis on sessile primary productivity. Macroalgal members of the community were the focus of this study and were used to evaluate the presence and effect of environmental contaminants. Contaminants prominent in highly polluted regions of the harbor were elevated in tissue samples. Field surveys evaluating density and biomass were conducted in five areas of varying contamination and indicated a drastic inhibition of colonization with increasing contaminant load. No differences were detected between sites in terms of oocyte production in a single receptacle, but only individuals from less contaminated regions released those oocytes. Potential causes of decreased population size may therefore be reduction in individual biomass and a decreased ability to release eggs.


Assis, J., E.A. Serrão, B. Claro, C. Perrin and G.A. Pearson. 2014. Climate-driven range shifts explain the distribution of extant gene pools and predict future loss of unique lineages in a marine brown alga. Mol. Ecol. 23: 2797–2810. Search in Google Scholar

Bryan, G.W. 1983. Brown seaweed, Fucus vesiculosus, and the gastropod, Littorina littoralis as indicators of trace-metal availability in estuaries. Sci. Total Environ. 28: 91–104. Search in Google Scholar

Cantwell, M.G., J. King and R.M. Burgess. 2006. Temporal trends of Aroclor 1268 in the Taunton River estuary: evidence of early production, use and release to the environment. Mar. Pollut. Bull. 52: 1105–1111. Search in Google Scholar

Connan, S. and D.B. Stengel. 2011. Impacts of ambient salinity and copper on brown algae: 2. Interactive effects on phenolic pool and assessment of metal binding capacity of phlorotannin. Aquat. Toxicol. 104: 1–13. Search in Google Scholar

Fraser, C.I. 2016. Change in southern hemisphere intertidal communities through climate cycles: the role of dispersing algae. In: (Z.M. Hu and C. Fraser, eds.) Seaweed Phylogeography. Springer, Dordrecht. pp. 131–143. Search in Google Scholar

Fritioff, A., L. Kautsky and M. Greger. 2005. Influence of temperature and salinity on heavy metal uptake by submersed plants. Environ. Pollut. 133: 265–274. Search in Google Scholar

Fry, D.M. 1995. Reproductive effects in birds exposed to pesticides and industrial chemicals. Environ. Health. Perspect. 103: 165–171. Search in Google Scholar

Gillanders, B.M., K.W. Able, J.A. Brown, D.B. Eggleston and P.F. Sheridan. 2003. Evidence of connectivity between juvenile and adult habitats for mobile marine fauna: an important component of nurseries. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 247: 281–295. Search in Google Scholar

Hable, W.E. and X. Nguyen. 2013. Polychlorinated biphenyls disrupt cell division and tip growth in two species of fucoid algae. J. Phycol. 49: 701–708. Search in Google Scholar

Haritonidis, S. and P. Malea. 1999. Bioaccumulation of metals by the green alga Ulva rigida from Thermaikos Gulf, Greece. Environ. Pollut. 104: 365.372. Search in Google Scholar

Harley, C.D.G., K.M. Anderson, K.W. Demes, J.P. Jorve, R.L. Kordas and T.A. Coyle. 2012. Effects of climate change on global seaweed communities. J. Phycol. 48: 1064–1078. Search in Google Scholar

Hartmann, P.C., J.G. Quinn, R.W. Cairns and J.W. King. 2004. Polychlorinated biphenyls in Narragansett Bay surface sediments. Chemosphere. 57: 9–20. Search in Google Scholar

Heine, J.N. 1989. Effects of ice scour on the structure of sublittoral marine algal assemblages of St. Lawrence and St. Matthew Islands, Alaksa. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 52: 253–260. Search in Google Scholar

Jackim, E., J.M. Hamlin and S. Sonis. 1987. Effects of metal poisoning on five liver enzymes in the killifish (Fundulus heteroclitus). J. Fish. Res. Board. Can. 27: 383–390. Search in Google Scholar

Jarvis, T.A., K. Gretchen and K. Bielmyer-Fraser. 2015. Accumulation and effects of metal mixtures in two seaweed species. Comp. Biochem. Phys. C. 171: 28–33. Search in Google Scholar

Jayasekera, R. and M. Rossbach. 1996. Use of seaweeds for monitoring trace elements in coastal waters. Environ. Geochem. Hlth. 18: 63–68. Search in Google Scholar

Jenkins, S.R., T.A. Norton and S.J. Hawkins. 1999. Interactions between canopy forming algae in the eulittoral zone of sheltered rocky shores on the Isle of Man. J. Mar. Ass. U.K. 79: 341–349. Search in Google Scholar

Lake, J.L., R. McKinney, C.A. Lake, F.A. Osterman and J. Heltshe. 1995. Comparisons of patterns of polychlorinated biphenyl congeners in water, sediment, and indigenous organisms from New Bedford Harbor, Massachusetts. Arch. Environ. Contam. Toxicol. 29: 207–220. Search in Google Scholar

Lauze, J.F. and W.E. Hable. 2017. Delayed growth and cell division in embryos of Fucus vesiculosus after parental exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls and metals. Bot. Mar. 60: 149–152. Search in Google Scholar

McGeer, J.C., C. Szeebedinszky, D.G. McDonald and C.M. Wood. 2000. Effects of chronic sublethal exposure to waterborne Cu, Cd or Zn in rainbow trout 2: tissue specific metal accumulation. Aquat. Toxicol. 50: 245–256. Search in Google Scholar

Mineur, F., F. Arenas, J. Assis, A.J. Davies, A.H. Engelen, F. Fernandes, E. Malta, T. Thibaut, T.V. Nguyen, F. Vaz-Pinto, S. Vranken, E.A. Serrão and O.D. Clerck. 2015. European seaweeds under pressure: consequences for communities and ecosystem functioning. J. Sea Res. 98: 91–108. Search in Google Scholar

Moy F.E. and M. Walday. 1996. Accumulation and depuration of organic micro-pollutants in marine hard bottom organisms. Mar. Pollut. Bull. 33: 56–63. Search in Google Scholar

Munda, I.M. and V. Hudnik. 1986. Growth response of Fucus vesiculosus to heavy metals, single and in dual combinations, as related to accumulation. Bot. Mar. 29: 401–412. Search in Google Scholar

National Estuary Program. 1992. Buzzard’s Bay Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan. Available at: (last accessed 28 June 2016). Search in Google Scholar

Nieva, J., J. Assis, N.C. Coelho, F. Fernandes, G.A. Pearson and E.A. Serrão. 2015. Genes left behind: climate change threatens cryptic genetic diversity in the canopy-forming seaweed Bifurcaria bifurcata. PLoS One 10: e0131530. Search in Google Scholar

Nygård, C.A. and M.J. Dring. 2008. Influence of salinity, temperature, dissolved inorganic carbon and nutrient concentration on the photosynthesis and growth of Fucus vesiculosus from the Baltic and Irish seas. Eur. J. Phycol. 43: 253–262. Search in Google Scholar

Pedersen, A. 1984. Studies on phenol content and heavy metal uptake in fucoids. Hydrobiologia. 116/117: 498–504. Search in Google Scholar

Porte, C. and J. Albaigés. 1993. Bioaccumulation patterns of hydrocarbons and polychlorinated biphenyls in bivalves, crustaceans, and fishes. Arch. Environ. Contam. Toxicol. 26: 273–281. Search in Google Scholar

Ramesh, K., S. Berry and M.T. Brown. 2015. Accumulation of silver by Fucus spp. (Phaeophyceae) and its toxicity to Fucus ceranoides under different salinity regimes. Ecotoxicology. 6: 1250–1258. Search in Google Scholar

Rincón, J., F. González, A. Ballester, M.L. Blázquez and J.A. Muñoz. 2005. Biosorption of heavy metals by chemically-activated alga Fucus vesiculosus. J. Chem. Technol. Biot. 80: 1403–1407. Search in Google Scholar

Romera, E., F. González, A. Ballester, M.L. Blázquez and J.A. Muñoz. 2007. Comparative study of biosorption of heavy metals using different types of algae. Bioresource Technol. 98: 3344–3353. Search in Google Scholar

Scheuhammer, A.M. 1987. The chronic toxicity of aluminium, cadmium, mercury, and lead in birds: a review. Environ. Pollut. 46: 263–295. Search in Google Scholar

Smale, D. A. and T. Wernberg. 2013. Extreme climatic event drives range contraction of habitat-forming species. P. R. Soc. B. 280: 20122829. Search in Google Scholar

Søndergaard, J., L. Bach and K. Gustavson. 2014. Measuring bioavailable metals using diffusive gradients in thin films (DGT) and transplanted seaweed (Fucus vesiculosus), blue mussels (Mytilus edulis) and sea snails (Littorina saxatilis) suspended from monitoring buoys near a former lead-zinc mine in West Greenland. Mar. Pollut. Bull. 78: 102–109. Search in Google Scholar

Stalling, D.L. and L. Mayer Jr. 1972. Toxicities of PCBs to fish and environmental residues. Environ. Health Perspect. 1: 159–164. Search in Google Scholar

Strömgren, T. 1980. The effect of lead, cadmium, and mercury on the increase in length of five intertidal fucales. J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol. 43: 107–119. Search in Google Scholar

United States Department of Health and Human Services (USDHHS). Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. 2000. Available at: (last accessed 20 June 2016). Search in Google Scholar

United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA). 1998. EPA Method 6020A (SW-846): Inductively Coupled Plasma – Mass Spectrometry. Available at: (last accessed 26 June 2016). Search in Google Scholar

United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA). 2007. EPA Method 8082A (SW-846): Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) by Gas Chromatography. Available at: (last accessed 26 June 2016). Search in Google Scholar

United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA). 2011. 40 CFR Appendix B to Part 136 – Definition and Procedure for the Determination of the Method Detection Limit-Revision 1.11. 49 FR 43430, 26 Oct 1984; 50 FR 694, 696, 4 Jan 1985, as amended at 51 FR 23703, 30 June 1986. Search in Google Scholar

United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA). 2014. New Bedford Harbor Superfund Site: Brief Summary. Available at: (last accessed 20 June 2016). Search in Google Scholar

United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA). 2015a. New Bedford Harbor (NBH) Long Term Monitoring (LTM) Program: Comparative Analysis of the 2014 LTM Collection. Available at: (last accessed 20 June 2016). Search in Google Scholar

United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA). 2015b. Superfund Site Assessment Process. Available at: (last accessed 20 June 2016). Search in Google Scholar

United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA). 2016. New Bedford Harbor Cleanup Plans, Technical Documents and Environmental Data. Available at: (last accessed 20 June 2016). Search in Google Scholar

University of Michigan Herbarium. 2014. Barnstable county specimen records. Available at: (last accessed 20 June 2016). Search in Google Scholar

Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc. 1996. New Bedford Harbor Historic Overview Natural Resources Uses Status Report. Available at: (last accessed 20 June 2016). Search in Google Scholar

Varma, R., A. Turner and M.T. Brown. 2011. Bioaccumulation of metals by Fucus ceranoides in estuaries of South West England. Mar. Pollut. Bull. 62: 2557–2562. Search in Google Scholar

Wang, W.X. and R.C.H. Dei. 1999. Kinetic measurements of metal accumulation in two marine macroalgae. Mar. Biol. 135: 11–23. Search in Google Scholar

Weaver, G. 1982. PCB pollution in the New Bedford, Massachusetts area: a status report. Massachusetts Coastal Zone Management. Available at: (last accessed 26 June 2016). Search in Google Scholar

Yesson, C., L.E. Bush, A.J. Davies, C.A. Maggs and J. Brodie. 2015. Large brown seaweeds of the British Isles: evidence of changes in abundance over four decades. Estuar. Coast. Shelf S. 155: 167–175. Search in Google Scholar

Received: 2016-7-7
Accepted: 2017-2-28
Published Online: 2017-3-30
Published in Print: 2017-4-24

©2017 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston