Conservation palaeobiology

of oil-polluted tropical marine biota in the Persian (Arabian) Gulf

Team Dissemination

The goal of this project is to recognize and quantify the effects of anthropogenic disturbance by chronic point sources of pollution on benthic communities.
Major questions are:
1) Does mismatch between the living and death assemblage reflect recent anthropogenic disturbance?
2) Can molluscs serve as surrogates for the entire macrobenthos?
3) How does disturbance change with distance from oil-fields?

The project is based on samples collected around oil fields in the Persian (Arabian) Gulf in 1999. The survey was carried out in the near- and farfield in the water-borne discharge areas at five sites in the Southern Gulf, off the coast of United Arab Emirates.

Samples will be sorted and benthic fauna extracted, identified and counted. The study will focus on molluscs, whose shells constitute much of the death assemblage. However, all phyla will be extracted and will be available for further studies by interested students and researchers.

Data will then be analysed by traditional benthic ecology methods to assess variation in space of the living assemblage and relation to environmental variables (e.g. Total of Petroleum Hydrocarbons (TPH)).

The next step is to quantify the similarity in composition and structure between the living and death assemblage as a potential indicator of a recent ecological shift.

Radiocarbon calibrated AAR (amino-acid-racemization) age estimates from time-averaged assemblages will be used to estimate the age of dead shells and to quantify time averaging. This method will help to evaluate the timing of the pollution effects on community composition and structure, by using techniques restricted to palaeontology until recent years. This will yield a chronological perspective on the effects of pollution on the community.

How to contribute
Students: if you are interested in contributing to the project write to any of the contacts below to arrange a research period in Vienna.
Researchers: if you are interested in following the progress of the project please write us to get in touch, exchange publications and ideas.

This is a project funded by the European Union under the FP7-PEOPLE programme in the form of a post-doctoral fellowship at the Department of Palaeontology of the University of Vienna.

Paolo G. Albano e-mail, website
Martin Zuschin e-mail, website
Michael Stachowitsch e-mail, website

Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowships (IEF) - Call: FP7-PEOPLE-2012-IEF
Grant Agreement no.: PIEF-GA-2012-326089

Last update: 25 August 2016

Photographs by Texplor Gmbh