Cathodic protection by sacrificial anodes composed of aluminum-zinc-indium alloys is often applied to protect offshore support structures of wind turbines from corrosion. Given the considerable growth of renewable energies and thus offshore wind farms in Germany over the last decade, increasing levels of aluminum, indium and zinc are released to the marine environment. Although these metals are ecotoxicologically well-studied, data regarding their impact on marine organisms, especially sediment-dwelling species, as well as possible ecotoxicological effects of galvanic anodes are scarce. To investigate possible ecotoxicological effects to the marine environment, the diatom Phaedactylum tricornutum, the bacterium Aliivibrio fischeri and the amphipod Corophium volutator were exposed to dissolved galvanic anodes and solutions of aluminum and zinc, respectively, in standardized laboratory tests using natural seawater. In addition to acute toxicological effects, the uptake of these elements by C. volutator was investigated.
The investigated anode material caused no acute toxicity to the tested bacteria and only weak but significant effects on algal growth. In case of the amphipods, the single elements Al and Zn showed significant effects only at the highest tested concentrations. Moreover, an accumulation of Al and In was observed in the crustacea species.
Overall, the findings of this study indicated no direct environmental impact on the tested marine organisms by the use of galvanic anodes for cathodic protection. However, the accumulation of metals in, e.g., crustaceans might enhance their trophic transfer within the marine food web.