you're reading...


MAYDAY! MAYDAY! We’ve Run Aground!!…Assessing the early impacts of the Costa Concordia wreck

Regoli, F., D. Pellegrini, A.M. Cicero, M. Nigro, M. Bededetti, S. Gorbi, D. Fattorini, G. D’Errico, M. Di Carlo, A. Nardi, A. Gaion, A. Scuderi, S. Giuliani, G. Romanelli, D. Berto, D. Trabucco, P. Guidi, M. Bernardeschi, V. Scarcelli, G. Frenzilli (2014) A multidisciplinary weight of evidence approach for environmental risk assessment at the Costa Concordia wreck: Integrative indices from Mussel Watch, Marine Environmental Research v(96), pg. 92-104, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.marenvres.2013.09.016.


Headlining international news on January 13, 2012 was the devastating grounding of the Costa Concordia cruise ship on a submerged rock near the entrance of Giglio Harbor, Giglio Island, Tuscany, Italy (Figure 1).   Unfortunate events like this require immediate response to potential environmental impacts, both immediate and long term, as a result of chemicals entering the water column and sediment. Assessing a wreckage site is complicated due to the unknown nature of released chemicals and the complexity in which they interact with the environment. Investigations led by the National Civil Protection and the Italian Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (ISPRA) focused on the biological and chemical oceanographic approaches for monitoring of the water column and sediment. Information from various studies is entered into a complicated algorithm called Sediqualsoft designed to weight the value of different results to produce an overall environmental evaluation surrounding the wreckage site.

Photo credit: http://cruiseastute.com/blog/category/news/ships/costa-concordia-disaster/

Figure 1: Photo credit: http://cruiseastute.com/blog/category/news/ships/costa-concordia-disaster/

The research focused on in Regoli et al. (2014) is the Mussel Watch. Mussel Watch is a year-long investigation of caged Mytilus galloprovinciali focused on the early detection of toxicological effects of anthropogenic pollutants that may have been released into the marine environment as a result of the wreck. Mytilus galloprovinciali are used because there are no native populations in that area, essentially making the mussels a control organism. In previous works, Mytilus galloprovinciali have proven to adapt easily to varying environmental conditions (i.e. changes in organic and inorganic pollutant concentrations), and the reactions of the molecular and cellular systems to these changes are preserved in such a way that a time-integrated analysis can be accomplished.   During the year the experiments were performed, both the emergency phase (oil and fuel removal) and part of the “Parbuckling project” (an effort to refloat and tow away the wreck, completed July 23, 2014) were occurring, potentially introducing multiple pollutants to the environment that are also important to monitor. Some of the pollutants analyzed in the tissues of the mussels include: trace metals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH’s), volatile and aliphatic hydrocarbons (C6-C10 and C10-C40), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), organo-chlorinated pesticides (OCPs), and brominated flame retardants (BFRs).


Mussels used in this research were taken from 8 meters of water at Caldane (the reference site) and transplanted to the wreck site, Giglio Porto, and the reference site (Figure 2) for seven 4-6 weeks periods at two depths (1.5 m below sea surface and 1.5 m above bottom) between February and December 2012. At the conclusion of a translocation period samples were collected from each site and depth and were frozen at subzero temperatures for chemical analysis. Analysis of tissues included gas-chromatography, high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), inductively coupled plasma (ICP), and atomic absorption spectrophotometry (AAS), among others. Analysis of variance (ANOVA) was applied to compare the statistical significance of results from the three sites and two depths

Map three translocation sites identified by the black filled circles: Wreck site, Giglio Porto, and Caldane.

Figure 2: Map three translocation sites identified by the black filled circles: Wreck site, Giglio Porto, and Caldane.

Analyses of tissues in mussels were completed with a multiple biomarker approach. Basically this means scientists look a specific components of the cell to detect if it is responding in an abnormal way to changing conditions. For example, peroxisomes play an essential role in fat break down for energy use. When peroxisomes are exposed to organic xenobiotics the mussels response by increasing the number and volume of organelles, so scientists can use an increased organelle concentration to identify the impact of xenobiotics. In addition to perioxisomes, scientists also look at metallothioneins which are involved in homeostasis of essential metals and are more active when exposed to increased concentrations of metals.

Chemical toxicity is traced by enhanced generation of reactive oxygen species inside a cell. It can also be recognized from the response of lysosomal systems. Lysosomal systems are the organelles involved in basic cell function, food digestion, immune function, and removal of harmful compounds; toxicity affects the membrane stability of the systems. Lastly, toxins resulting in mutation of genetics are accessed from breaks in DNA strands.


All in all the wreck did not have immediate alarming impacts on the mussels studied.  In summary, it was determined that many of the measured statistically significant bioaccumulated increases were correlated with recovery efforts and increased anthropogenic activity. The wreck itself did not release much pollution: trace metal results show a statistically significant increase that is prominent in the shallow cages but does not have a time dependent trend; xenobiotics had an irregular variation; and PCB’s, halogenated pesticides, and BFRs were not significantly measured for any site or depth (Figure 3).   Furthermore, many changes observed can be attributed to factors like temperature, reproductive maturation, and nutrient availability.

Lead (top) and zinc (bottom) bioaccumulation as a percentage from the wreckage compared to the reference site.

Figure 3: Lead (top) and zinc (bottom) bioaccumulation as a percentage from the wreckage compared to the reference site.


Results of early detection studies like this one can be used to monitor potentially serious contamination events from wrecks and monitor the degree of pollution from emergency response efforts. By monitoring change in increments of time, a snapshot of when the most significant impacts occurred can be captured to increase the likelihood of identifying the cause.

Results from studies like Regoli et al. are incorporated into a Sediqualsoft model. The Sediqualsoft model uses logical flowcharts and mathematical algorithms to classify sediment quality and to judge environmental hazards in coastal areas for which there are multidisciplinary studies involved. The information from Mussel Watch will be mixed with results from studies involving native fish and invertebrates, water column and sediment chemistry, and benthic community changes, to try and give reliable information about the environment surrounding the Costa Concordia wreck.





No comments yet.

Post a Comment


  • by oceanbites 2 months ago
    Happy Earth Day! Take some time today to do something for the planet and appreciate the ocean, which covers 71% of the Earth’s surface.  #EarthDay   #OceanAppreciation   #Oceanbites   #CoastalVibes   #CoastalRI 
  • by oceanbites 3 months ago
    Not all outdoor science is fieldwork. Some of the best days in the lab can be setting up experiments, especially when you get to do it outdoors. It’s an exciting mix of problem solving, precision, preparation, and teamwork. Here is
  • by oceanbites 4 months ago
    Being on a research cruise is a unique experience with the open water, 12-hour working shifts, and close quarters, but there are some familiar practices too. Here Diana is filtering seawater to gather chlorophyll for analysis, the same process on
  • by oceanbites 5 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on  #oceanbites  we are featuring Hannah Collins  @hannahh_irene  Hannah works with marine suspension feeding bivalves and microplastics, investigating whether ingesting microplastics causes changes to the gut microbial community or gut tissues. She hopes to keep working
  • by oceanbites 5 months ago
    Leveling up - did you know that crabs have a larval phase? These are both porcelain crabs, but the one on the right is the earlier stage. It’s massive spine makes it both difficult to eat and quite conspicuous in
  • by oceanbites 5 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Cierra Braga. Cierra works ultraviolet c (UVC) to discover how this light can be used to combat biofouling, or the growth of living things, on the hulls of ships. Here, you
  • by oceanbites 5 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Elena Gadoutsis  @haysailor  These photos feature her “favorite marine research so far: From surveying tropical coral reefs, photographing dolphins and whales, and growing my own algae to expose it to different
  • by oceanbites 6 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on Oceanbites we are featuring Eliza Oldach. According to Ellie, “I study coastal communities, and try to understand the policies and decisions and interactions and adaptations that communities use to navigate an ever-changing world. Most of
  • by oceanbites 6 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Jiwoon Park with a little photographic help from Ryan Tabata at the University of Hawaii. When asked about her research, Jiwoon wrote “Just like we need vitamins and minerals to stay
  • by oceanbites 7 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on  #Oceanbites  we are featuring  @riley_henning  According to Riley, ”I am interested in studying small things that make a big impact in the ocean. Right now for my master's research at the University of San Diego,
  • by oceanbites 7 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Gabby Stedman. Gabby is interested in interested in understanding how many species of small-bodied animals there are in the deep-sea and where they live so we can better protect them from
  • by oceanbites 7 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Shawn Wang! Shawn is “an oceanographer that studies ocean conditions of the past. I use everything from microfossils to complex computer models to understand how climate has changed in the past
  • by oceanbites 7 months ago
    Today we are highlighting some of our awesome new authors for  #WriterWednesday  Today we have Daniel Speer! He says, “I am driven to investigate the interface of biology, chemistry, and physics, asking questions about how organisms or biological systems respond
  • by oceanbites 8 months ago
    Here at Oceanbites we love long-term datasets. So much happens in the ocean that sometimes it can be hard to tell if a trend is a part of a natural cycle or actually an anomaly, but as we gather more
  • by oceanbites 8 months ago
    Have you ever seen a lobster molt? Because lobsters have exoskeletons, every time they grow they have to climb out of their old shell, leaving them soft and vulnerable for a few days until their new shell hardens. Young, small
  • by oceanbites 9 months ago
    A lot of zooplankton are translucent, making it much easier to hide from predators. This juvenile mantis shrimp was almost impossible to spot floating in the water, but under a dissecting scope it’s features really come into view. See the
  • by oceanbites 9 months ago
    This is a clump of Dead Man’s Fingers, scientific name Codium fragile. It’s native to the Pacific Ocean and is invasive where I found it on the east coast of the US. It’s a bit velvety, and the coolest thing
  • by oceanbites 10 months ago
    You’ve probably heard of jellyfish, but have you heard of salps? These gelatinous sea creatures band together to form long chains, but they can also fall apart and will wash up onshore like tiny gemstones that squish. Have you seen
  • by oceanbites 11 months ago
    Check out what’s happening on a cool summer research cruise! On the  #neslter  summer transect cruise, we deployed a tow sled called the In Situ Icthyoplankton Imaging System. This can take pictures of gelatinous zooplankton (like jellyfish) that would be
  • by oceanbites 11 months ago
    Did you know horseshoe crabs have more than just two eyes? In these juveniles you can see another set in the middle of the shell. Check out our website to learn about some awesome horseshoe crab research.  #oceanbites   #plankton   #horseshoecrabs 
WP2Social Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com