Effects of TiO2 nanoparticles on the growth and metabolism of three species of freshwater algae

  • Bradley J. Cardinale
  • Raven Bier
  • Courtney Kwan
Research Paper


We examined how TiO2 nanoparticles (nTiO2) impact the growth and metabolism of three species of freshwater green algae (Scenedesmus quadricauda, Chlamydomonas moewusii, and Chlorella vulgaris) that are widespread throughout North America. We exposed laboratory cultures to five initial concentrations of nTiO2 (0, 50, 100, 200, and 300 ppm) and measured impacts on species population growth rates, as well as on metabolic rates of gross primary production (GPP) and respiration (R). Population growth rates were consistently reduced by nTiO2, with reduction ranging from 11 to 27 % depending on the species. But the mechanisms of reduction differed among species. For Chlamydomonas, nTiO2 reduced both GPP and R, but effects on GPP were stronger. As a consequence, carbon was respired more quickly than it was fixed, leading to reduced growth. In contrast, nTiO2 stimulated both GPP and R in Chorella. But because R was stimulated to a greater extent than GPP, carbon loss again exceeded fixation, leading to reduced growth. For Scenedesmus, nTiO2 had no significant impact on R, but reduced GPP. This pattern also caused carbon loss to exceed fixation. Results suggest that nTiO2 may generally suppress the growth of pelagic algae, but these impacts are manifest through contrasting effects on species-specific metabolic functions. Because growth and metabolism of algae are fundamental to the functioning of ecosystems and the structure of aquatic food-webs, our study suggests nTiO2 has potential to alter important community and ecosystem properties of freshwater habitats.


Titanium dioxide Nanomaterials Lakes Primary production Nanobiotechnology 



This project was supported by the National Science Foundation and Environmental Protection Agency under Cooperative Agreement # NSF-EF0830117. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation or the Environmental Protection Agency.

Supplementary material

11051_2012_913_MOESM1_ESM.docx (536 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 545 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bradley J. Cardinale
    • 1
  • Raven Bier
    • 2
    • 3
  • Courtney Kwan
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Natural Resources & EnvironmentUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  2. 2.Department of BiologyDuke UniversityDurhamUSA
  3. 3.Department of EcologyEvolution & Marine Biology, University of CaliforniaSanta BarbaraUSA

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