Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Boat paint to blame for Norfolk Broads' desolation

One of the main culprits behind an environmental catastrophe that desolated one of Britain's most important wildlife habitats has finally been identified in a study led by researchers from UCL (University College London) and Acroloxus Wetlands Consultancy Ltd, Canada.

In the current issue of the journal Environmental Science & Technology, they reveal that introduction of the compound tributyltin (TBT) as a biocide in boat paint in the 1960s resulted in a dramatic and sudden loss of aquatic vegetation from most of the 50 or so Norfolk Broads lakes.

At the time, scientists pointed the finger at contamination from sewage works and fertiliser run-off from farmland, despite suggestions from the local community that the burgeoning leisure boating industry might be to blame.

Though the use of TBT was banned in freshwater systems in the UK in 1987, the researchers say 40 years on from TBT's introduction the fragile ecosystem remains shattered despite expensive attempts to restore it.

Dr Carl Sayer, of the UCL Environmental Change Research Centre, who co-led the study, says: "For too long TBT has been neglected as a driver of environmental destruction in freshwater wetlands and even though it is no longer in use in UK inland waterways, TBT contamination and its negative effects are still being reported all over the world.

"Real concerns have been raised about TBT derived from industrial and ship breaking activities in several major river systems including the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Yangtze – all of which are connected to shallow lakes. In the case of the Yangtze, the linked shallow lakes are some of the largest in the world and, like the Broads, have experienced problems with plant loss on a large scale."

TBT was originally designed for use on the hulls of large ocean-going ships to reduce the build-up of barnacles. Since the 1970s it has been linked to a host of negative effects in the marine environment including mutations in shellfish. An aggressive marketing programme in the 1960s saw its use fashionably worldwide on much smaller craft both in the oceans and within inland waterways.

"TBT is extremely toxic and highly persistent in the environment, earning it the controversial title as the most toxic substance ever introduced deliberately by man into the aquatic environment," explains Dr Sayer.

"In freshwaters, once TBT is released from an antifouling coating it is rapidly absorbed by bacteria and algae, and eventually works its way up the food chain. Within a short period of time after the paint's introduction to the Broads, it knocked out many of the small invertebrates which are a part of the life support system for water plants – turning the waters of the Broads green with algae."

To investigate levels of TBT in the Broads the researchers took sediment cores from two lakes, one close to the centre of the boating industry and the other half a kilometre away. Results show an abrupt decline in plant and invertebrate populations at the precise time that a strong TBT signature was detected.

"The irony of the tale is that the paint was designed to stop barnacles attaching to boats – which you don't get in freshwater. By simply lifting boats out of the water once a year and using a bit of elbow grease, one of Britain's areas of outstanding natural beauty might still be intact rather than on the long road to recovery."

Judith H Moore | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Invasive Insects Cost the World Billions Per Year
04.10.2016 | University of Adelaide

nachricht Malaysia's unique freshwater mussels in danger
27.09.2016 | The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Ice shelf vibrations cause unusual waves in Antarctic atmosphere

25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

Fluorescent holography: Upending the world of biological imaging

25.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Etching Microstructures with Lasers

25.10.2016 | Process Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>