Scientia Marina, Vol 74, No 2 (2010)

Meiofauna communities in exposed sandy beaches on the Galician coast (NW Spain), six months after the Prestige oil spill: the role of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)

Puri Veiga
Departamento de Zooloxía e Antropoloxía Física, Facultade de Veterinaria, Universidade de Santiago de Compostela, Spain

Celia Besteiro
Estación de Bioloxía Mariña da Graña (EBMG), Spain

Marcos Rubal
CIIMAR/CIMAR-LA, Centro Interdisciplinar de Investigação Marinha e Ambiental - Universidade do Porto, Laboratório de Biodiversidade Costeira, Portugal


The effect of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) on Galician sandy beach ecosystems, six months after the Prestige oil spill, was evaluated using the meiobenthos at a higher taxon level as an indicator. Meiobenthos community structure, environmental variables and sediment PAH content from six affected exposed beaches were studied and compared with three reference sites. They were also compared with data from polluted beaches obtained during the first days of the spill. Significant amounts of PAHs were found in affected beach sediments and both univariate and multivariate analyses showed differences between affected and reference beaches. Correlation analyses between PAH content and the meiobenthos community structure showed that 1,2-dimethylnaphthalene (C2-NAPH) and 1-methylphenanthrene (C-PHEN) affected both the community structure and the abundance of the main taxa. These two PAHs seem to be responsible for the low meiofauna density values, which suggests that there is a relationship between the oil spill and the differences between affected and reference localities.


oil spill; Prestige; beach; meiobenthos; 1;2-dimethylnaphthalene; 1-methylphenanthrene; multivariate analysis

Full Text:



Ansari, Z.A. and B. Ingole. – 2002. Effect of an oil spill from M V Sea Transporter on intertidal meiofauna at Goa, India. Mar. Pollut. Bull., 44: 396-402. doi:10.1016/S0025-326X(01)00248-X

Arenas, F., I. Sánchez, S.J. Hawkins and S. Jenkins. – 2006. The invasibility of marine algal assemblages: role of functional diversity and identity. Ecology, 87(11): 2851-2861. doi:10.1890/0012-9658(2006)87[2851:TIOMAA]2.0.CO;2

Barata, C., A. Calbet, E. Saiz, L. Ortiz, and J.M. Bayona. – 2005. Predicting single and mixture toxicity of petrogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons to the copepod Oithona davisae. Environ. Toxicol. Chem., 24(11): 2992-2999. doi:10.1897/05-189R.1 PMid:16398138

Benedetti-Cecchi, L. – 2001. Beyond Baci: optimization of environmental sampling designs through monitoring and simulation. Ecol. Appl., 11(3): 783-799. doi:10.1890/1051-0761(2001)011[0783:BBOOES]2.0.CO;2

Beyrem, H. and P. Aissa. – 2000. Les nématodes libres, organismes-sentinelles de l’évolution des concentrations d’hycrocarbures dans la baie de Bizerte (Tunisie). Cah. Biol. Mar., 41: 329-342.

Bodin, P. – 1988. Results of ecological monitoring of three beaches polluted by the “Amoco Cadiz” oil spill: development of meiofauna from 1978 to 1984. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser., 42: 105-123. doi:10.3354/meps042105

Brown, A.C. and A. McLachlan. – 1990. Ecology of sandy shores.Elsevier, Amsterdam.

Buchanan, J.B. – 1984. Sediment analysis. In: N.A. Holme and A.D. McIntyre (eds.), Methods for the study of marine benthos, pp. 41-65. Blackwell, Oxford.

Calbet, A., E. Saiz, and C. Barata. – 2007. Lethal and sublethal effects of naphthalene and 1,2-dimethylnaphthalene on the marine copepod Paracartia grani. Mar. Biol., 151: 195-204. doi:10.1007/s00227-006-0468-0

Carballeira, A., E. Carral, X.M. Puente and R. Villares. – 1997. Estado de conservación de la costa de Galicia: nutrientes y metales pesados en sedimentos y organismos intermareales. Servicio de Publicaciones e Intercambio científico, Santiago de Compostela.

Clarke, K.R. – 1993. Non parametric multivariate analyses of changes in community structure. Aust. J. Ecol., 18: 117-43. doi:10.1111/j.1442-9993.1993.tb00438.x

Clarke, K.R. and M. Ainsworth. – 1993. A method of linking multivariate community structure to environmental variables. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser., 92: 205-219. doi:10.3354/meps092205

Ellis, D. – 1985. Taxonomic sufficiency in pollution assessment. Mar. Pollut. Bull., 16(12): 459. doi:10.1016/0025-326X(85)90362-5

Evans, W., M.A. Todaro and W.D. Hummon. – 1993. Eutrophication and Gastrotrich diversity in the Northern Adriatic Sea. Mar. Pollut. Bull., 26(5): 268-272. doi:10.1016/0025-326X(93)90066-S

Fleeger, J.W. and G.T. Chandler. – 1983. Meiofauna responses to an experimental oil spill in a Louisiana salt marsh. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser., 11: 257-264. doi:10.3354/meps011257

Frithsen, J.B., R. Elmgren and D.T. Rudnick. – 1985. Responses of benthic meiofauna to long-term, low-level additions of No.2 fuel oil. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser., 23: 1-14. doi:10.3354/meps023001

Glasby, T.M. – 1997. Analysing data from post-impact studies using asymmetrical analyses of variance: A case study of epibiota on marinas. Aust. J. Ecol., 22: 448-459. doi:10.1111/j.1442-9993.1997.tb00696.x

Herman, P.M.J. and C. Heip. – 1988. On the use of meiofauna in ecological monitoring: Who needs taxonomy? Mar. Pollut. Bull., 19(12): 665-668. doi:10.1016/0025-326X(88)90386-4

Hummon, W.D., M.A. Todaro, M. Balsamo and P. Tongiorgi. – 1990. Effects of pollution on marine gastrotrichs in the northwestern Adriatic Sea. Mar. Pollut. Bull., 21(5): 241-243. doi:10.1016/0025-326X(90)90342-6

Junoy, J., C. Castellanos, J.M. Viéitez, M.R. de la Huz and M. Lastra.– 2005. The macroinfauna of the Galician sandy beaches (NW Spain) affected by the Prestige oil-spill. Mar. Pollut. Bull., 50: 526-536. doi:10.1016/j.marpolbul.2004.11.044 PMid:15907495

Kingston, P.F. – 2002. Long-term environmental impact of oil spills. Spill Sci. Technol. B., 7(1-2): 53-61. doi:10.1016/S1353-2561(02)00051-8

Lee, K. and D.S. Page. – 1997. Petroleum hydrocarbons and their effects in subtidal regions after major oil spills. Mar. Pollut. Bull., 34(11): 928-940. doi:10.1016/S0025-326X(97)00078-7

Long, E.R., L.J. Field and D.D. Macdonald. – 1998. Predicting toxicity in marine sediments with numerical sediment quality guidelines. Environ. Toxicol. Chem., 17(4): 714-727. doi:10.1002/etc.5620170428

Long, E.R., D.D. Macdonald, S.S. Smith and F.D. Calder. – 1995. Incidence of adverse biological effects within ranges of chemical concentrations in marine and estuarine sediments. Environ. Manage., 19(1): 81-97. doi:10.1007/BF02472006

Lotufo, G.R. and J.W. Fleeger. – 1997. Effects of sediment-associated phenanthrene on survival, development and reproduction of two species of meiobenthic copepods. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser., 151: 91-102. doi:10.3354/meps151091

Mac Nally, R. – 2000. Regression and model-building in conservation biology, biogeography and ecology: the distinction between-and reconciliation of-“predictive” and “explanatory” models. Biodivers. Conserv., 9: 655-671. doi:10.1023/A:1008985925162

Moore, C.G. and B.J. Bett. – 1989. The use of meiofauna in marine pollution impact assessment. Zool. J. linn. Soc., 96: 263-280. doi:10.1111/j.1096-3642.1989.tb01831.x

Pfannkuche, O. and H. Thiel. – 1988. Sample processing. In: R.P. Higgins and H. Thiel (eds.), Introduction to the study of meiofauna, pp. 134-145. Smithsonian Inst. Press, Washington.

Rodríguez, J.G., M. Incera, R. de la Huz, J. López and M. Lastra. – 2007. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), organic matter quality and meiofauna in Galician sandy beaches, 6 months after the Prestige oil-spill. Mar. Pollut. Bull., 54: 1031-1071.

Rubal, M. – 2008. La meiofauna intermareal de sustratos blandos de la ría de Foz (Galicia). Ph.D. thesis, Univ. Santiago de Compostela.

Suchanek, T.H. – 1993. Oil impacts on marine invertebrate populations and communities. Amer. Zool., 33(6): 510-523.

Underwood, A.J. – 1994. On beyond BACI: sampling designs that might reliably detect environmental disturbance. Ecol. Appl. 4(1): 3-15. doi:10.2307/1942110

Veiga, P. – 2008. La meiofauna intermareal de sustratos blandos de la ría de O Barqueiro (Galicia). Ph.D. thesis, Univ. Santiago de Compostela.

Veiga, P., M. Rubal and C. Besteiro. – 2007. Estudio preliminar del efecto del fuel sobre la meiofauna de algunas playas gallegas, en los primeros días de la marea negra del Prestige. Nov. Act. Cient. Compostelana (Bioloxía), 16: 87-99.

Veiga, P., M. Rubal and C. Besteiro. – 2009. Shallow sublittoral meiofauna communities and sediment polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) content on the Galician coast (NW Spain), six months after the Prestige oil spill. Mar. Pollut. Bull., 58: 581-588. doi:10.1016/j.marpolbul.2008.11.002 PMid:19091356

Walsh, C. and R. Mac Nally. – 2003. The hier.part package. Hierarchical partitioning. R project for statistical computing. (

Walsh, C., P.J. Papas, D. Crowther, P.T. Sim and J. Yoo. – 2004. Stormwater drainage pipes as a threat to a stream-dwelling amphipod of conservation significance, Austrogammarus australis, in southeastern Australia. Biodivers. Conserv., 13: 781-793. doi:10.1023/B:BIOC.0000011726.38121.b0

Warwick, R.M. – 1993. Environmental impact studies on marine communities: Pragmatical considerations. Aust. J. Ecol., 18: 63-80. doi:10.1111/j.1442-9993.1993.tb00435.x

Whitfield, J. – 2003. How to clean a beach. Nature, 422: 464-466. doi:10.1038/422464a PMid:12673220

Wormald, A.P. – 1976. Effects of a spill of marine diesel oil on the meiofauna of a sandy beach at Picnic Bay, Hong Kong. Environ. Pollut., 11: 117-130. doi:10.1016/0013-9327(76)90024-0

Copyright (c) 2010 Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC)

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Contact us

Technical support