, Volume 7, Issue 5, pp 342-349
Date: 15 Nov 2007

Application of a new sediment contact test with Myriophyllum aquaticum and of the aquatic Lemna test to assess the sediment quality of Lake Skadar

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Goal, Scope and Background

Situated in the transboundary belt between Montenegro and Albania, Lake Skadar is the largest freshwater reservoir in Southeastern Europe. Because of the wide range of endemic, rare or endangered plant and animal species it supports, Lake Skadar and its extensive adjacent wetlands are internationally recognised as a site of significance and importance (Ramsar site). Within the last 10 to 20 years, Lake Skadar was exposed to intensive pollution. For the assessment of the ecotoxic load of the sediments sampled in Lake Skadar, a triad approach was recently applied. Overall, a complex spectrum of ecotoxic loads was elucidated. The aim of the present study was to use plant-based bioassays for assessing the sediment quality of Lake Skadar in order to facilitate and complement the triad test battery. The newly developed sediment contact test with Myriophyllum aquaticum and the aquatic growth inhibition test with Lemna minor were applied to native sediments and pore water, respectively, allowing the investigation of different toxicity-effects caused by particle-bound pollutants as well as pollutants in the interstitial water. This investigation is the first application of the novel sediment contact test with Myriophyllum aquaticum to lake sediments.


Sediment samples were taken from nine selected sites at Lake Skadar and investigated by the sediment contact assay with Myriophyllum aquaticum. The pore water was extracted from these sediment samples to be analysed in the aquatic growth inhibition test with Lemna minor. The results of the sediment contact tests were compared with each other and with those of the aquatic growth inhibition test.

Results and Discussion

Both applied macrophyte biotests revealed distinct changes in the growth behaviour of the two macrophytes subsequent to the exposure to the investigated natural sediments of Lake Skadar. The Myriophyllum sediment contact test revealed significant toxicity in the sediment samples from Radus and Kamenik, whereas the aquatic Lemna test showed inhibition effects for the samples from Sterbeq, Plavnica and Kamice. Data obtained with the newly developed Danio rerio contact test and the Arthrobacter globiformis contact test confirmed the Myriophyllum results.

Analyses of the heavy metal content in the sediments revealed low or moderate contamination levels. Correlation analyses between the content of heavy metals in the sediments and growth inhibition of Myriophyllum aquaticum showed a significant correlation between Cr concentrations and growth inhibition. Comparable findings are available for a German river system. In contrast, no significant correlation between inhibition rates and concentration of metals could be observed with Lemna minor.


It was shown that the newly developed sediment contact test with Myriophyllum aquaticum is applicable to lake sediments. In both the sediment contact test with Myriophyllum aquaticum on whole sediments and the aquatic growth inhibition test with Lemna minor on pore water, plant growth was influenced by the natural sediments and its components. Therefore, both test systems were found to be suitable for the detection of phytotoxic effects upon exposure to sediments. Myriophyllum aquaticum as test organism of the contact test grows directly in the sediment without an additional water-layer. Thus, it is able to detect toxicity caused by particle-bound phytotoxic substances as well as pore water-related contamination, while the floating Lemna minor can only detect effects emanating from pore water. Significant differences of the results were observed between these two test systems and, accordingly, the two different exposure scenarios. Hence, none of the tests can replace the other one and, as a consequence, both should be included into a test battery for the assessment of sediment toxicity.

Recommendations and Perspectives

Both plant assays were shown to be reliable tools for the evaluation of the eco-toxicological risk potentials of pore water and solid-phase sediment. They should become a complement to the standardised test battery generally used for comprehensive hazard assessment.