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Figure 1 | Aquatic Biosystems

Figure 1

From: Marine crude-oil biodegradation: a central role for interspecies interactions

Figure 1

Fate of a marine oil spill (for a more detailed explanation, see Spreading is affected by the action of winds, waves, water currents, oil type and temperature, and enhances evaporation of the volatile fractions such as low molecular weight alkanes and monoaromatic hydrocarbons. Spilt oil is broken into droplets and dispersed through the water column, enhancing the biodegradation of hydrocarbons and dissolution of water-soluble fractions of oil. Turbulent seas cause water droplets to be suspended in the oil, resulting in water-in-oil emulsions, alternatively known as chocolate mousse, which is difficult to degrade because of its high viscosity and reduced surface area. Photo-oxidation is the process by which hydrocarbons, especially PAHs, react with oxygen in the presence of sunlight, resulting in structural changes that can on the one hand lead to increased water solubility or, conversely, increased recalcitrance to biodegradation. Sedimentation will general only occur when oil adsorbs to particles owing to nearly all crude oils having a lower density than seawater.

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