The Science of the total environment

Spatial, temporal, and source variations of hydrocarbons in marine sediments from Baffin Bay, Eastern Canadian Arctic.

PMID 25437761


With declining sea ice conditions in Arctic regions owing to changing climate, the large prospective reservoirs of oil and gas in Baffin Bay and Davis Strait are increasingly accessible, and the interest in offshore exploration and shipping through these regions has increased. Both of these activities are associated with the risk of hydrocarbon releases into the marine ecosystem. However, hydrocarbons are also present naturally in marine environments, in some cases deriving from oil seeps. We have analyzed hydrocarbon concentrations in eleven sediment cores collected from northern Baffin Bay during 2008 and 2009 Amundsen expeditions and have examined the hydrocarbon compositions in both pre- and post-industrial periods (i.e., before and after 1900) to assess the sources of hydrocarbons, and their temporal and spatial variabilities. Concentrations of ΣPAHs ranged from 341 to 2693 ng g(-1) dw, with concentrations in cores from sites within the North Water (NOW) Polynya generally higher. Individual PAH concentrations did not exceed concentrations of concern for marine aquatic life, with one exception found in a core collected within the NOW (one of the seven sediment core samples). Hydrocarbon biomarkers, including alkane profiles, OEP (odd-to-even preference), and TAR (terrigenous/aquatic ratios) values indicated that organic carbon at all sites is derived from both terrigenous higher plants and marine algae, the former being of greater significance at coastal sites, and the latter at the deepest sites at the southern boundary of the NOW. Biomarker ratios and chemical profiles indicate that petrogenic sources dominate over combustion sources, and thus long-range atmospheric transport is less significant than inputs from weathering. Present-day and historic pre-1900 hydrocarbon concentrations exhibited less than an order of magnitude difference for most compounds at all sites. The dataset presented here provides a baseline record of hydrocarbon concentrations in Baffin Bay sediments in advance of offshore exploration and increased shipping activities.