Impact of brine and antiscalants on reef-building corals in the Gulf of Aqaba – Potential effects from desalination plants

Karen Lykkebo Petersen, Adina Paytan, Eyal Rahav, Oren Levy, Jacob Silverman, Oriya Barzel, Donald Potts, Edo Bar-Zeev

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

80 Scopus citations

Abstract

Seawater reverse osmosis (SWRO) is becoming an increasingly important source of potable water in arid and semi-arid regions worldwide. Discharge of brine-effluent from desalination facilities has been shown to significantly impact coastal marine ecosystems ranging from seagrass meadows to microbial communities. In this study, we examined the impacts of increased salinity (10% above ambient) and presence of antiscalants (0.2 mg L−1, polyphosphonate-based) on three reef-building coral species; Stylophora pistillata, Acropora tenuis and Pocillopora verrucosa, from the Gulf of Aqaba (northern Red-Sea). Our results indicate that the corals, as well as associated bacteria and algae, were significantly impaired by the elevated salinity and antiscalants, leading to partial bleaching. Specifically, the abundance of bacteria and symbiotic algae as well as calcification rates were typically lower (20–85%, 50–90% and 40–50%, respectively) following incubations with both amendments. However, the impact of desalination brine was often species-specific. Thus, we propose that the ecotoxicological criteria used for hard corals should be determined based on the sensitivity of key species in the community dominating the area affected by desalination discharge.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)183-191
Number of pages9
JournalWater Research
Volume144
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Elsevier Ltd

Keywords

  • Brine discharge
  • Coral reefs
  • Gulf of Aqaba
  • Osmotic stress
  • Polyphosphonate-based antiscalants
  • SWRO desalination

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