Date: 11 Mar 2005

The Development of Marine Toxicity Identification Evaluation (TIE) Procedures Using the Unicellular Alga Nitzschia closterium

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Abstract

Unicellular algae are highly sensitive to a wide range of toxicants and have been used extensively in ecotoxicological testing. This, along with their ability to grow in very small test volumes over short test durations, make them ideal test organisms for use in Toxicity Identification Evaluations (TIEs). Despite this, microalgae have not previously been used in marine TIE studies. In this study, the marine diatom Nitzschia closterium was shown to be a highly suitable test organism after modification of the standard test protocol to reduce test volumes to 6 mL and test duration to 48 h. The alga was tolerant to the chemicals used in phase I of the standard USEPA TIE protocol, and physical TIE manipulations had no effect on algal growth. The cation exchange procedure, however, inhibited algal growth, while the anion exchange procedure stimulated growth, making these two procedures unsuitable for use with this species. Of the buffers trialed for the graduated pH procedure, 0.01 M PIPES buffer was found to be suitable for buffering at pH 7 because it maintained the required pH over the duration of the test and did not affect the growth or sensitivity of the algae to one reference toxicant (copper). A trial TIE on a secondary-treated sewage effluent for discharge into coastal waters showed that the developed protocols could successfully be used to identify ammonia as the major toxicant in the effluent.