Organisms living in coastal waters are exposed to anthropogenic contaminants from terrestrial drainage, ice melting and maritime traffic and to enhanced UVB radiation (UVBR; 280–320 nm) caused by decreased concentrations of ozone in the stratosphere. This article reviews available information about the combined effects of UVBR and selected hydrosoluble contaminants potentially present in surface waters on marine species and especially on plankton community structure in high-latitude coastal zones. Effects of UVBR on three selected pesticides (Atrazine, carbaryl and Acifluorfen) and possible induction of phototoxicity are reviewed. Most toxicological studies have been conducted under laboratory conditions with questionable relevance for coastal marine ecosystems. Similarly, photoactivation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) has been closely examined and reported effects on aquatic species summarized. Experiments with field-sampled communities demonstrated the complexity and the difficulty in determining the impact of multiple stressors on an aquatic ecosystem, even for ecosystems simplified by eliminating large grazers and fish. Nutrient status, specific composition and light history have influenced the different responses of planktonic assemblages exposed to enhanced UVBR and water-soluble fraction (WSF) from crude oil or to tributyltin. Plankton assemblages subjected to changes in the ozone hole were physiologically stressed and more susceptible to WSF toxicity than communities from less enhanced UVBR-impacted sites. A close relationship between phytoplankton assemblages and bacteria was observed in all experiments in mesocosms. A contaminant-induced phytoplankton crash after a bloom event may release important carbon and nutrient sources for bacteria. The magnitude of phytoplanktonic mortality induced by a contaminant probably influenced how rapidly bacteria grew over time. The transition from a herbivorous food web to a microbial food web has significant ecological implications for carbon cycling and energy flow in pelagic systems. A high phytoplankton mortality implies a situation in which the potential for downward carbon export from surface waters is high. In contrast, high bacterial enrichment implies that the phytoplankton carbon is largely recycled in surface waters through a microbial loop and does not contribute significantly to sinking particle flux. The most ecologically relevant results were obtained with mesocosm studies using field-collected communities. The enhancement of hydrocarbon toxicity in the presence of a high level of UVBR cannot be described as being a synergistic or an additive effect, because the WSF alone is not toxic and may even be beneficial by increasing bacterial activity. This is a case in which one stressor has the ability to modify another stressor to cause it to be toxic to target organisms. These abiotically induced interactions may be important for biological communities exposed to extreme conditions when physical, chemical or photochemical reactions modify the nature of environmental stressors before they interact with biological functions. The need for models on the impacts of multiple stressors on biodiversity and ecosystem functioning is emphasized.
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Vol. 82 • No. 4