, Volume 22, Issue 5, pp 779-794
Date: 06 Apr 2013

Assessing triclosan-induced ecological and trans-generational effects in natural phytoplankton communities: a trait-based field method

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We exposed replicated phytoplankton communities confined in semi-permeable membrane-based mesocosms to 0, 0.1, 1 and 10 μg L−1 triclosan (TCS) and placed them back in their original environment to investigate the occurrence of trans-generational responses at individual, population and community levels. TCS diffused out of mesocosms with a half-life of less than 8 h, so that only the parental generation was directly stressed. At the beginning of the experiment and after 7 days (approximately 2 generations) we analysed responses in the phytoplankton using scanning flow-cytometry. We acquired information on several individually expressed phenotypic traits, such as size, biovolume, pigment fluorescence and packaging, for thousands of individuals per replicated population and derived population and community aggregated traits. We found significant changes in community functioning (increased productivity in terms of biovolume and total fluorescence), with maximal effects at 1 μg L−1 TCS. We detected significant and dose-dependent responses on population traits, such as changes in abundance for several populations, increased average size and fluorescence of cells, and strong changes in within-population trait mean and variance (suggesting micro-evolutionary effects). We applied the Price equation approach to partition community effects (changes in biovolume or fluorescence) in their physiological and ecological components, and quantified the residual component (including also evolutionary responses). Our results suggested that evolutionary or inheritable phenotypic plasticity responses may represent a significant component of the total observed change following exposure and over relatively small temporal scales.