Many coral reefs worldwide occur adjacent to urban or agricultural land which places these ecosystems at threat of exposure to complex mixtures of pollutants. In this study, the pairing of passive sampler extracts with bioassays is proposed as a tool for predicting effects of organic pollutant mixtures on key biota within coral reef ecosystems. Passive samplers, SDB-RPS Empore™ disks, which sequester a mixture of the contaminants present in the environment, were deployed at three sites in the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). Extracts from these samplers were analysed for herbicides and applied to bioassays targeting integral life stages or functions of coral reef biota. Biota included scleractinian coral larvae, sea urchin larvae, a marine diatom and marine bacteria. Photosynthesis in the marine diatom Phaeodactylum tricornutum was inhibited at the sampled environmental concentration while an environmental concentration factor of 15 times inhibited luminescence in the marine bacterium Vibrio fischeri. Concentrations of 50 times sampled environmental levels of organic pollutants inhibited >90% of Acropora millepora settlement and 100-fold environmental enrichment inhibited 100% Heliocidaris tuberculata larval development. These results demonstrate the utility of pairing passive sampling with bioassays and reveal that mixtures of organic pollutants in the GBR have the potential to cause detrimental effects to coral reef biota. © 2009 Elsevier B.V.
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