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 journalArticle

5 Citations (Scopus)


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


  • 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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