(ORDO NEWS) — Ships that sank during World War II are still polluting the seas, scientists from the University of Ghent in Belgium have concluded. The work was published in Frontiers in Marine Science.
Researchers have studied the shipwreck of the Nazi trawler V-1302 John Mann, which sank in the North Sea off the coast of Belgium in 1942. It turned out that toxic explosives have been leaking from the ship for 80 years, which affect the microbiome and geochemistry of the seabed.
The researchers took samples of the steel hull and sediment at twelve different locations near and far from the crash site to see how far possible contamination could spread.
Scientists have found traces of heavy metals such as nickel and copper, arsenic, explosives and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs are chemicals found in coal, crude oil and gasoline).
The concentration of toxic pollutants around the vessel varied with distance, with the highest concentrations of metals found in the sample closest to the vessel.
The researchers also found that these concentrations affect the surrounding microbiome. In samples with the highest concentrations of contaminants, microbes such as Rhodobacteraceae and Chromatiaceae were found that degrade PAHs. Sulfate-reducing bacteria have been found on the hull, which corrode it.
According to scientists, there are thousands of such wrecks in the North Sea alone. This means that the cumulative negative impact on marine life can be enormous. In the future, scientists plan to continue studying the impact of shipwrecks.
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