HKUST Shenzhen Research Institute, Shenzhen, 518 057, State Key Laboratory of Marine Pollution, Department of Ocean Science, HKUST, Clear Water Bay, Kowloon, Hong Kong, China. Electronic address: [Email]
The Pearl River Estuary (PRE) is the third largest estuary in China, where estuarine organisms are under metal stress at various biological levels. Based on the metal concentrations measured in oyster Crassostrea hongkongensis, we documented a change in dominance of metal contamination from Cd, Cr, Cu, Ni and Zn to Ag, Cd, Cu and Zn. In general, metal concentrations were higher in upstream stations and displayed a clear up-downstream gradient. Compared to the historical values, we noted the reductions in Cd, Cr and Ni concentrations, and the changing inputs due to evolving industrial activities were responsible for shaping the metal contamination profile in the PRE region. Along with metal concentrations, a suite of biomarkers was analyzed. Among the metals measured in the oyster tissues, Ag, Cd, Cu, Ni and Zn showed the strongest associations with pro-oxidant and oxidative stress responses (superoxide dismutase, lipid peroxidation and lysosomal membrane destabilization) and detoxification responses (glutathione and metallothionein), suggesting that the present metal contamination still exerts significant amount of stress in biota in the PRE. Metal contamination in estuaries in China is still severe compared to other countries, therefore continuous efforts should be taken to monitor the changing metal profiles with necessary control and remediation measures.