Short and long term toxicity of crude oil and oil dispersants to two representative coral species

Shai Shafir*, Jaap Van Rijn, Baruch Rinkevich

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Scopus citations


Oil dispersants, the tool of choice for treating oil spills in tropical marine environments, is potentially harmful to marine life, including reef corals. In a previous study, we found that dispersed oil and oil dispersants are harmful to soft and hard coral species at early life stages. In this broader study, we employed a "nubbin assay" on more than 10 000 coral fragments to evaluate the short- and long-term impacts of dispersed oil fractions (DOFs) from six commercial dispersants, the dispersants and water-soluble-fractions (WSFs) of Egyptian crude oil, on two Indo Pacific branching coral species, Stylophora pistillata and Pocillopora damicornis. Survivorship and growth of nubbins were recorded for up to 50 days following a single, short (24 h) exposure to toxicants in various concentrations. Manufacturer-recommended dispersant concentrations proved to be highly toxic and resulted in mortality for all nubbins. The dispersed oil and the dispersants were significantly more toxic than crude oil WSFs. As corals are particularly susceptible to oil detergents and dispersed oil, the results of these assays rules out the use of any oil dispersant in coral reefs and in their vicinity. The ecotoxicological impacts of the various dispersants on the corals could be rated on a scale from the least to the most harmful agent, as follows: Slickgone > Petrotech > Inipol = Biorieco > Emulgal > Dispolen.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)5571-5574
Number of pages4
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number15
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2007


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