Journal of Applied Phycology

, Volume 31, Issue 1, pp 399–408 | Cite as

Sensitivity of freshwater and marine green algae to three compounds of emerging concern

  • Manuela D. MachadoEmail author
  • Eduardo V. SoaresEmail author


In this study, the toxicity of three compounds of emerging concern (CEC) belonging to different classes [metolachlor (herbicide), erythromycin (antibiotic) and triclosan (antiseptic)], were evaluated and compared using the freshwater alga Pseudokirchneriella subcapitata and the marine alga Dunaliella tertiolecta. Toxicity assays were performed by exposing algal cells, in exponential phase of growth, to the toxicants for 72 h (P. subcapitata) or 96 h (D. tertiolecta). The toxicant concentrations that induced an inhibition of 50% of algal growth (EC50) of P. subcapitata or D. tertiolecta were 118 and 11.3 × 103 μg L−1 for metolachlor (MTC), 38 and 5.75 × 103 μg L−1 for erythromycin (ERT) and 27.1 and 93 μg L−1 for triclosan (TCS), respectively. Based on these EC50 values, it was possible to hierarchize (decreasing order) the toxicity of the CEC studied: TCS > ERT > MTC. The EC50 values achieved for P. subcapitata were between 3.4- and 151-fold lower than those observed with D. tertiolecta, which demonstrated the higher sensitivity of the freshwater alga comparatively to the marine alga. All 72 h-EC10 or 72 h-EC50 values determined in this study with P. subcapitata are within the concentration range of these pollutants described in the literature, in ground and surface waters, which underlines the significance of this alga in the ecotoxicity assessment of freshwaters.


Chlorophyta Dunaliella tertiolecta Erythromycin Metolachlor Pseudokirchneriella subcapitata Toxicity Triclosan 



This study was supported by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT) under the scope of the strategic funding of UID/BIO/04469/2013 unit and COMPETE 2020 (POCI-01-0145-FEDER-006684) and BioTecNorte operation (NORTE-01-0145-FEDER-000004) funded by the European Regional Development Fund under the scope of Norte2020—Programa Operacional Regional do Norte. Manuela D. Machado gratefully acknowledges the post-doctoral grant from FCT (SFRH/BPD/72816/2010).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Supplementary material

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Bioengineering Laboratory-CIETIISEP-School of Engineering of Polytechnic Institute of PortoPortoPortugal
  2. 2.CEB-Centre of Biological EngineeringUniversity of MinhoBragaPortugal

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