Distribution patterns of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in the sediments and fish at Mai Po Marshes Nature Reserve, Hong Kong

Y. Liang*, M. F. Tse, L. Young, Ming Hung WONG

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

155 Citations (Scopus)


Sediment samples were collected monthly from eight shrimp shallow ponds (local name gei wais) from July 2003 to January 2004, and from mangrove swamps and inter-tidal mudflats in July and November 2003, respectively. Fish samples (tilapia) were also collected. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) were analyzed by gas chromatography and mass spectrometry (GC/MS). The results indicated that under wet season wet deposition and suspended particulates brought in by nearby rivers, such as the Peal River, served as an important source of PAHs entering Mai Po Marshes. Total organic matter in the sediments showed significant correlations (p<0.01) with PAHs in the sediments, mainly due to the mechanism that organic matter such as humic substances increased PAH persistence by binding and occluding PAHs. Except for naphthalene, biota-sediment accumulation factors (BSAF) of the PAHs in tilapia were below 1.7, which may be caused by biotransformation and the lower uptake in fish. In addition, aqueous route dominated accumulation of non-biodegradable PAHs in tilapia because higher levels were detected in larger fish than in smaller ones. A general trend was observed that BSAFs declined with the increase of Kow values, which suggested that bioavailability of low Kow isomers was high due to higher gill transfer efficiencies (aqueous uptake) in fish but enhanced biotransformation and decreased gut assimilation (dietary uptake) resulted in decreased accumulation of more hydrophobic PAHs (high Kow). Lastly, viscera appeared to be a promising tissue for biomonitoring, as it contained much higher concentrations than the muscle (3.5 magnitudes), and the levels in the muscle were significantly correlated with those in the viscera (r2=0.938, p<0.0001).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1303-1311
Number of pages9
JournalWater Research
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2007

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Ecological Modelling
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution

User-Defined Keywords

  • Bioaccumulation
  • Biota-sediment accumulation factors (BSAF)
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
  • Sub-tropical estuary wetland
  • Tilapia
  • Viscera


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