Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 25, Issue 10, pp 9992–9997 | Cite as

Effects of malathion and nitrate exposure on the zooplankton community in experimental mesocosms

  • Geoffrey R. SmithEmail author
  • Sannanegunda V. B. Krishnamurthy
  • Anthony C. Burger
  • Jessica E. Rettig
Research Article


Surface waters are likely to be contaminated by both pesticides and fertilizers. Such contamination can result in changes in community composition if there is differential toxicity to individual taxa. We conducted a fully factorial mesocosm experiment that examined the single and interactive effects of environmentally realistic concentrations of nitrate and malathion on zooplankton communities and phytoplankton productivity. Malathion significantly decreased the abundance of total zooplankton, cyclopoid copepods, copepod nauplii, and Ceriodaphnia, and increased the abundance of rotifers. Nitrate addition generally had no effect on zooplankton; however, Ceriodaphnia abundance was higher in control mesocosms than in nitrate-treated mesocosms. There was only one significant interaction between malathion and nitrate treatments: For Ceriodaphnia, the no malathion, no nitrate mesocosms had much higher abundances than all other combinations of treatments. Without nitrate addition, chl a levels were uniformly low across all malathion treatments, whereas in the presence of nitrate, there were differences among the malathion treatments. In conclusion, our results demonstrate that malathion contamination of aquatic ecosystems can result in changes in the abundance and composition of zooplankton communities. In contrast, nitrate contamination appeared to have much less potential impact on zooplankton communities, either on its own or in interaction with malathion. Our results reinforce the notion that the effects of contaminants on aquatic ecosystems can be complex and further research examining the single and interactive effects of chemical stressors is needed to more fully understand their effects.


Agricultural chemicals Chlorophyll a Fertilizer Malathion Nitrate Pesticides Zooplankton 



SVK is thankful to United States-India Educational Foundation (USIEF, New Delhi, India) for funding his Fulbright Indo-American Environmental Leadership Program Fellowship. We thank W. and L. Smith, C.J. Dibble, and L. Mills for their help during the experiment. Additional financial support was provided by the Arend McBride Endowed Fund, the Greene Fund, and the Denison University Research Foundation.

Compliance with ethical standards

This experiment was approved by the Denison University Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (09-006).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyDenison UniversityGranvilleUSA
  2. 2.Department of Environmental ScienceKuvempu UniversityShimoga DistrictIndia

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