, Volume 29, Issue 4, pp 435-441

An outdoor mesocosm study to assess ecotoxicological effects of atrazine on a natural plankton community

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Pond mesocosms were used to assess the effects of a widely used pesticide on a natural plankton community. Atrazine, whose residuals in surface waters can occur at levels potentially hazardous to aquatic organisms, was applied at six test concentrations during a 6-week study. Structural and functional parameters were measured twice a week.

Oxygen concentration was the most sensitive parameter, with marked reductions indicating adverse affects by atrazine on photosynthesis. Taxa in the phytoplankton community showed varying sensitivity to the pollutant, although threshold concentrations for effects on most taxa were exceeded at 182 μg/L. Indirect effects due to food limitation were the most likely cause of changes in the abundance of several zooplankton species.

It is concluded that mesocosms provide realistic effects of atrazine on aquatic systems, but at the same time some difficulties with this approach are apparent when applied to seasonally dynamic planktonic systems.