Sources, presence and potential effects of contaminants of emerging concern in the marine environments of the Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait, Australia
Current policy and management for marine water quality in the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) in north-eastern Australia primarily focusses on sediment, nutrients and pesticides derived from diffuse source pollution related to agricultural land uses. In addition, contaminants of emerging concern (CECs) are known to be present in the marine environments of the GBR and the adjacent Torres Strait (TS). Current and projected agricultural, urban and industrial developments are likely to increase the sources and diversity of CECs being released into these marine ecosystems. In this review, we evaluate the sources, presence and potential effects of six different categories of CECs known to be present, or likely to be present, in the GBR and TS marine ecosystems. Specifically, we summarize available monitoring, source and effect information for antifouling paints; coal dust and particles; heavy/trace metals and metalloids; marine debris and microplastics; pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs); and petroleum hydrocarbons. Our study highlights the lack of (available) monitoring data for most of these CECs, and recommends: (i) the inclusion of all relevant environmental data into integrated databases for building marine baselines for the GBR and TS regions, and (ii) the implementation of local, targeted monitoring programs informed by predictive methods for risk prioritization. Further, our spatial representation of the known and likely sources of these CECs will contribute to future ecological risk assessments of CECs to the GBR and TS marine environments, including risks relative to those identified for sediment, nutrients and pesticides.