Effects of organic and heavy metal pollution on chironomids within a pristine upland catchment
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Several studies, particularly in the Northern Hemisphere, have demonstrated that chironomids are responsive to pollution (e.g., heavy metals, organic). In Australia, there is limited evidence that chironomid species have differential sensitivities to water pollution, with several studies reporting high tolerance of heavy metal pollution. We investigated the impact of both zinc-rich mine waste and organic effluent on chironomids within an effectively pristine background using the Chironomid Pupal Exuviae Technique (CPET). Chironomid species assemblages were strongly influenced by both mine drainage and organic pollution. Community composition differed between unpolluted streams and locations downstream of the pollution sources, and between the two different sources of pollution. Thirty seven of the most abundant species exhibited strong responses to water pollution varying from greatly increased abundance to complete absence. Ten species had higher abundance at one of the polluted sites compared to unpolluted sites; six in the presence of zinc pollution and five in the presence of organic pollution. One species responded positively to both pollution types. Our results indicate that contrary to the mixed reports of Australian chironomids for being insensitive to pollution, we found that they displayed a strong pollution response to both organic and heavy metal contamination.
KeywordsZinc Coal mine drainage Sewage Chironomid Pupal Exuvial Technique NMDS
This study formed part of Ian Wright’s PhD research at the University of Western Sydney. Sydney Water made laboratory facilities and sampling apparatus available. NSW National Parks and Wildlife provided a scientific collection permit. Susan Alexandra Wright generously assisted with field work. We are grateful for the comments by Dr Debbie Rae and Dr Helen Nice and anonymous reviewers on drafts of this manuscript.
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