Organic pollutants in deep sea: Occurrence, fate, and ecological implications

Edmond Sanganyado*, Kudakwashe E. Chingono, Willis Gwenzi, Nhamo Chaukura, Wenhua Liu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


The deep sea - an oceanic layer below 200 m depths – has important global biogeochemical and nutrient cycling functions. It also receives organic pollutants from anthropogenic sources, which threatens the ecological function of the deep sea. In this Review, critically examined data on the distribution of organic pollutants in the deep sea to outline the role of biogeochemical and geophysical factors on the global distribution and regional chemodynamics of organic pollutants in the deep sea. We found that the contribution of deep water formation to the influx of perfluorinated compounds reached a maximum, following peak emission, faster in young deep waters (< 10 years) compared to older deep waters (> 100 years). For example, perfluorinated compounds had low concentrations (< 10 pg L−1) and vertical variations in the South Pacific Ocean where the ocean currents are old (< 1000 years). Steep geomorphologies of submarine canyons, ridges, and valleys facilitated the transport of sediments and associated organic pollutants by oceanic currents from the continental shelf to remote deep seas. In addition, we found that, even though an estimated 1.2–4.2 million metric tons of plastic debris enter the ocean through riverine discharge annually, the role of microplastics as vectors of organic pollutants (e.g., plastic monomers, additives, and attached organic pollutants) in the deep sea is often overlooked. Finally, we recommend assessing the biological effects of organic pollutants in deep sea biota, large-scale monitoring of organic pollutants, reconstructing historical emissions using sediment cores, and assessing the impact of deep-sea mining on the ecosystem.
Original languageEnglish
Article number117658
Number of pages13
JournalWater Research
Early online date24 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2021
Externally publishedYes


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