Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp 75–85 | Cite as

A plea for the use of copepods in freshwater ecotoxicology

  • Devdutt Kulkarni
  • André Gergs
  • Udo Hommen
  • Hans Toni Ratte
  • Thomas G. Preuss
Review Article


Standard species used in ecological risk assessment are chosen based on their sensitivity to various toxicants and the ease of rearing them for laboratory experiments. However, this mostly overlooks the fact that species in the field that may employ variable life-history strategies, which may have consequences concerning the vulnerability of such species to exposure with contaminants. We aimed to highlight the importance of copepods in ecology and to underline the need to include freshwater copepods in ecotoxicology. We carried out a literature search on copepods and Daphnia in ecology and ecotoxicology to compare the recognition given to these two taxa in these respective fields. We also conducted a detailed analysis of the literature on copepods and their current role in ecotoxicology to characterize the scale and depth of the studies and the ecotoxicological information therein. The literature on the ecology of copepods outweighed that in ecotoxicology when compared with daphnids. Copepods, like other zooplankton, were found to be sensitive to toxicants and important organisms in aquatic ecosystems. The few studies that were conducted on the ecotoxicology of copepods mainly focused on marine copepods. However, very little is known about the ecotoxicology of freshwater copepods. To enable a more realistic risk higher tier environmental risk assessment, we recommend considering freshwater copepods as part of the hazard assessment process. This could include the establishment of laboratory experiments to analyse the effects of toxicants on copepods and the development of individual-based models to extrapolate effects across species and scenarios.


Freshwater Ecological risk assessment Pesticides Mesocyclops leuckarti Cyclopoid Copepod Ecotoxicology 



This research has been financially supported by the European Union under the 7th Framework Programme (project acronym CREAM, contract number PITN-GA-2009-238148). The authors would also like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments to improve the quality of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Devdutt Kulkarni
    • 1
  • André Gergs
    • 3
  • Udo Hommen
    • 2
  • Hans Toni Ratte
    • 1
  • Thomas G. Preuss
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute for Environmental ResearchRWTH Aachen UniversityAachenGermany
  2. 2.Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied EcologySchmallenbergGermany
  3. 3.Department of Environmental, Social and Spatial ChangeRoskilde UniversityRoskildeDenmark

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