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Chemical and biomarker responses for site-specific quality assessment of the Lake Maggiore (Northern Italy)

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Abstract

Since the 1990s, the Lake Maggiore (Northern Italy) has been recognized as an aquatic environment contaminated by DDTs and other persistent organic pollutants, but to date just few studies were carried out to investigate the effects of pollution to aquatic organisms. The aim of this study was the application of a stepwise approach based on chemical data, a suite of biomarkers and the integration of their responses into a biomarker response index (BRI) to evaluate the site-specific quality assessment in different sampling stations of Lake Maggiore, one of the largest European lakes. We used as biological model the freshwater bivalve Zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha). Several hundred bivalve specimens were sampled on May 2011 from eight sampling sites located along the lake shoreline. We measured levels of DDTs, PCBs, HCHs, HCB, and PAHs accumulated in D. polymorpha soft tissues by GC/MSn, while the activities of catalase, superoxide dismutase, glutathione peroxidase, and glutathione S-transferase, as well as the lipid peroxidation and protein carbonyl content were evaluated in homogenates from native bivalves as oxidative stress indices. Moreover, DNA damage was investigated by the alkaline precipitation assay. Significant imbalances of enzymatic activity were found in mussels from most of the sampling sites, as well as notable increases of damage to macromolecules. Health status of mussels from Baveno was greatly affected by lake pollution, probably due to high levels of DDTs measured in this site, while a wide variability in biomarker responses was found in all the other stations. The application of a BRI allowed distinguishing impacts of pollution to bivalves, confirming mussels from Baveno as the most threatened and revealing that also the health status of bivalves from Suna, Brissago, Pallanza, and Laveno is affected. These evidences suggest the usefulness of a specific index to integrate all the biomarker endpoints in order to provide a correct environmental risk assessment.

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Correspondence to Marco Parolini.

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Responsible editor: Philippe Garrigues

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Parolini, M., Pedriali, A. & Binelli, A. Chemical and biomarker responses for site-specific quality assessment of the Lake Maggiore (Northern Italy). Environ Sci Pollut Res 20, 5545–5557 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-013-1556-6

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Keywords

  • Lake Maggiore
  • Biomarkers
  • GC/MS
  • Dreissena polymorpha
  • POPs