Adjusting tropical marine water quality guideline values for elevated ocean temperatures

Andrew Negri, Rachael Smith, Olivia King, Julius Frangos, Michael Warne, Sven Uthicke

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    12 Citations (Scopus)
    4 Downloads (Pure)


    Increased frequency of summer heatwaves and poor water quality are two of the most prevalent and severe pressures faced by coral reefs. While these pressures often co-occur, their potential risks to tropical marine species are usually considered independently. Here, we extended the application of multisubstance-Potentially Affected Fraction (ms-PAF) to a nonchemical stressor, elevated sea surface temperature. We then applied this method to calculate climate-adjusted water quality guideline values (GVs) for two reference toxicants, copper and the herbicide diuron, for tropical marine species. First, we developed a species sensitivity distribution (SSD) for thermal stress based on published experimental data for 41 tropical benthic marine species using methods adapted from water quality GV derivation. This enabled quantitative predictions of community effects as temperatures exceeded acclimation values. The resulting protective temperature values (PTx) were similar to temperatures known to initiate coral bleaching and are therefore relevant for application in multistressor risk assessments. The extended ms-PAF method enabled the adjustment of current water quality GVs to account for thermal stress events. This approach could be applied to other ecosystems and other non-contaminant stressors (e.g., sediment, low salinity, anoxia, and ocean acidification), offering an alternative approach for deriving environmental GVs, reporting and assessing the risk posed by multiple stressors.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1102-1110
    Number of pages9
    JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
    Issue number2
    Early online date17 Dec 2019
    Publication statusPublished - 21 Jan 2020

    Bibliographical note

    This document is the Accepted Manuscript version of a Published Work that appeared in final form in Environmental Science and Technology, copyright © American Chemical Society after peer review and technical editing by the publisher. To access the final edited and published work see

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    Australian Government’s National Environmental Science Program (NESP)


    • tropical
    • coral reefs
    • pollution
    • climate
    • temperature
    • thermal stress
    • cumulative
    • Species sensitivity distribution
    • multiple
    • Guidelines

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Chemistry(all)
    • Environmental Chemistry


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