During the time-course of ecotoxicity tests with algae and chronic (reproductive) toxicity tests with daphnids, in which algae are present as a food source, pH can dramatically increase due to photosynthetic activity. As pH changes can significantly affect metal speciation and thus its bioavailability, it may be necessary to buffer the pH of the exposure medium. One class of buffers (Good’s N-subtituted aminosulfonic acids) are increasingly being used in biological and chemical applications, including ecotoxicity testing. However, the potential effect of these buffers on metal toxicity has, so far, scarcely been examined. In this study we investigated if MOPS (3-N morpholino propane sulfonic acid) affected the toxicity of copper and zinc to two standard test organisms: the cladoceran Daphnia magna and the green alga Pseudokirchneriella subcapitata. First, we demonstrate that up to a concentration of 750 mg l−1 (which proved to be sufficient for pH buffering) MOPS did not affect 21-day net reproduction of D. magna or the 72-h population growth of P. subcapitata. Second, we conducted bioassays in copper and zinc spiked standard media for the pH range 6 – 8. For D. magna the possible effect of 750 mg l−1 MOPS on acute copper and zinc toxicity was investigated by performing parallel 48-h toxicity tests in NaHCO3 and MOPS buffered test media. Seventy-two hour growth inhibition assays with P. subcapitata were performed in parallel in MOPS and NaHCO3 buffered test media and in test media with daily manual pH adjustment with HCl. For daphnids no significant differences in copper and zinc toxicity were observed between MOPS or NaHCO3 buffered test media. For algae no significant differences in metal toxicity were observed between MOPS and HCl buffered media, but in test media buffered with NaHCO3 an increased copper and zinc toxicity was observed as a consequence of pH increases during the test. Clearly, the results of this study demonstrate the importance of pH buffering in metal toxicity testing and the suitability of the MOPS buffer for that purpose.
copper and zinc toxicity bioavailability MOPS pH buffering