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Structure and role of biological communities involved in the transport and transformation of persistent pollutants at the marine air-water interface (AIRWIN)

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Enriching our knowledge of European waters

The Sea Surface Microlayer (SML) is an environment abundant in diverse biological communities. In spite of our limited knowledge of its biology, microorganisms living at the SML are of particular interest given their ability to transform and transport persistent pollutants.

Climate Change and Environment

The collective term given to all organisms in the SML is neuston. Neuston is subdivided to bacterioneuston, phytoneuston and zooneuston. Researchers taking part in the AIRWIN project anticipate that careful examination of the SML may reveal important new microbial strains with pharmacologically relevant properties. The neustonic abilities to sense and transform pollutants could signify the presence of antioxidants with therapeutic potential. Appropriate sampling techniques for the collection of neustonic organisms were evaluated at the onset of the AIRWIN project. It was concluded that a combination of metal screens and glass plates could provide the most suitable samples and limit the potential for contamination. The project utilized 30 samples from Spanish and French coastal regions. The findings suggest that very few organisms appear neuston-specific. Most of the bacterial strains identified in the SML are similar to those in other marine environments and have come to be present in the SML as part of the physical flotation process. The same holds true for phytoneuston and zooneuston. On the other hand, a number of new bacteria genera and species were discovered. These did not constitute the majority among the neustonic populations but nonetheless it is anticipated that these microorganisms may prove important in the fields of pharmacology.

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