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The ecological competition and grazing reverse the effects of sulfamethoxazole on plankton: a case study on characterizing community-level effect

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The toxic effects of sulfamethoxazole (SMX) on densities of two algae, Platymonas helgolandica var. tsingtaoensis, Isochrysis galbana, and of a rotifer, Brachionus plicatilis, were tested by the population and community experiments. Two endpoints, the carrying capacity and the densities array of community in steady state (DACS), were used to characterize the toxic effects at a population level and a community one, respectively. The results showed that the carrying capacity of P. helgolandica var. tsingtaoensis and B. plicatilis did not decline significantly in population test when the concentration of SMX was lower than 6.0 mg L−1 and 12.0 mg L−1, respectively. However, I. galbana was sensitive to SMX and had presented toxic effect at 3.0 mg L−1. By extrapolation of toxic effect at a population level to a community one, a derived community-NOEC was 3.0 mg L−1, representing an inference from data of toxic effects at population level. In community experiment, when the customized community was in steady state, the density of I. galbana increased as a whole with SMX concentration in the range of tested concentration (0–144 mg L−1), while that of P. helgolandica var. tsingtaoensis assumed the trend of a reversed “v” in this range. Only the density of B. plicatilis decreased with SMX concentration. With the DACS as endpoint, a NOEC for the customized community was determined to be 6.0 mg L−1. This indicates that interspecific interactions can reverse the toxic effects of SMX on phytoplankton. The DACS was reliable and stable, serving as the endpoints in assessment of the effects of the pollutants on the ecosystems.

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This study was supported by the National Key Research and Development Program, China (Project No. 2016YFC1402101), the State Scholarship for study abroad, China (No. 201704180038), and the government Scholarship from Jiangsu Province, China for study abroad, the Fundamental Research Funds of Shandong University and the Priority Academic Program Development of Jiangsu Higher Education Institutions (PAPD).

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Correspondence to Changyou Wang.

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Responsible editor: Philippe Garrigues

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Wang, C., Liang, S. & Zhang, Y. The ecological competition and grazing reverse the effects of sulfamethoxazole on plankton: a case study on characterizing community-level effect. Environ Sci Pollut Res 25, 17283–17288 (2018).

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  • Interspecific interaction
  • Sulfamethoxazole
  • Ecotoxicology
  • Antibiotics
  • Endpoints