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Utility of field-based artificial streams for assessing effluent effects on riverine ecosystems

Abstract

Experimentation using field-based artificial streams provides a promising, complimentary approach to biomonitoring assessments because artificial streams provide control over relevant environmental variables and true replication of treatments. We have used large and small artificial stream systems, based in the field, to examine the effect of treated bleached kraft pulp mill effluent (BKME) on the benthos of three large rivers in western Canada. Under natural regimes of temperature, water chemistry, and insolation, these artificial streams provide current velocities and substrata to food chains or food webs that are representative of those in the study river. With these tools we have shown that BKME stimulated mayfly growth in the Thompson River above that which could be accounted for by fertilization of their algal food supply. In contrast, moulting frequency was inhibited at high BKME concentrations. Results from artificial streams also indicate that increased algal biomass and abundances of benthic communities downstream of BKME outfalls were induced by nutrient enrichment from the effluent. BKME treatments did not change diatom species richness in the Fraser River, or diatom species diversity in either the Athabasca or Fraser Rivers. Artificial streams provide a means of understanding the mechanisms of stressor effects over a continuum ranging from single stressor effects on specific taxa to the effects of multiple stressors on communities and ecosystems. Because riverside deployment provides environmental realism within a replicated experimental design, this approach can (i) address questions that cannot be examined using laboratory tests or field observations, (ii) improve our mechanistic understanding of stressor effects on riverine ecosystems, and (iii) can contribute directly to the development, parameterization, and testing of models for predicting ecosystem-level responses.

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Culp, J.M., Podemski, C.L., Cash, K.J. et al. Utility of field-based artificial streams for assessing effluent effects on riverine ecosystems. Journal of Aquatic Ecosystem Health 5, 117–124 (1996). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00662800

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00662800

Key words

  • artificial streams
  • ecotoxicology
  • benthos
  • pulp mill effluents
  • impact assessment
  • rivers
  • Fraser River
  • Athabasca River