Comparing the response of biochemical indicators (biomarkers) and biological indices to diagnose the ecological impact of an oil spillage in a Mediterranean river (NE Catalunya, Spain)

Chemosphere. 2007 Jan;66(7):1206-16. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2006.07.055. Epub 2006 Sep 7.


Three biomarkers of hydrocarbon exposure, liver 7-ethoxyresourfin-O-deethylase activity (EROD), fluorescent hydrocarbon compounds (FACs) in bilis, and the liver antioxidant enzyme catalase (CAT) were examined in the autochthonous fish species Barbus meridionalis collected in the river Fluvià (NE Catalunya, Spain) after an oil spillage. Four different locations were sampled, including the impacted site, upstream and downstream sites and a reference site. Biomarker responses were compared with diatom and macroinvertebrate community assemblage metrics (Specific Pollution Sensitivity index - IPS, and Iberian Biological Monitoring Working Party - IBMWP, respectively). Chemical analyses denoted that polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon levels in sediment were much higher at the impacted site than in downstream reaches. Four fold increase of EROD activity together with increased levels of biliary FACs in barbs collected at the spilled site indicated exposure of inhabiting fish to the oil. Additionally, CAT activity was significantly depressed (four fold) when compared to other stations, thus suggesting that fish collected from the impacted sites could be more susceptible to suffer oxidative stress. Biological indices (particularly that of the diatom community IPS) showed slight significant effects between control and impacted sites, indicating that more tolerant taxa were favoured because of the oil spillage. These results support the need to include biochemical responses measured in local species in monitoring programmes aimed to diagnose specific pollution effects in stressed river ecosystems.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bile / drug effects
  • Bile / enzymology
  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Catalase / analysis*
  • Cyprinidae / growth & development
  • Cyprinidae / metabolism
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP1A1 / analysis*
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods*
  • Fuel Oils / toxicity*
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Liver / drug effects
  • Liver / enzymology
  • Rivers / chemistry
  • Spain
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / toxicity*


  • Biomarkers
  • Fuel Oils
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Catalase
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP1A1