The role of zooplankton fecal pellets in the sedimentation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in Dabob Bay, Washington
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) compositions were determined in plankton, sediment-trap-collected particulate material and sediment cores from Dabob Bay using a high performance liquid Chromatographie (HPLC)/fluorescence technique. The annual flux of individual PAH measured in a series of sediment traps was compared with the flux of corresponding compounds determined from 210Pb dated bottom sediments. Systematic seasonal variations in the fluxes and concentrations of PAH, Al and organic carbon in the trap-collected particulates and seasonally collected plankton were also investigated to determine whether or not PAH are associated with either terrestrial or marine-derived materials. Concentrations of all PAH studied increased tenfold within the last 80-100 yr of sediment deposition, except for perylene which displayed a reasonably constant concentration profile. This suggests at least two sources contribute to the observed sedimentary PAH compositions in Dabob Bay, i.e., anthropogenic combustion and a natural source. Plankton and sediment trap-collected particulates contained PAH mixtures qualitatively similar to underlying surface sediments. Microscopic examination indicated fecal pellets were the major form of particulate material in the sediment traps. The fecal pellets collected in the sediment trap time series quantitatively account for essentially 100% of the PAH fluxes measured in the 210Pb dated sediments, implying Zooplankton fecal pellets control the removal of PAH to Dabob Bay sediments. These measurements provide clear evidence that the PAH studied are not produced after sediment deposition. The observed seasonal covariations of PAH and Al in both sediment trap and plankton samples further indicate that PAH originate from terrestrially-based sources, are introduced into the marine environment by runoff and erosion or atmospheric deposition and are not produced by marine plankton.