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A new plant-based bioassay for aquatic sediments

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Background, Goal and Scope

To date, standardised bioassays for the assessment of the ecotoxicological potential in sediments and dredged material use test organisms like bacteria, algae and crustaceae. This paper presents the development and application of a novel sediment contact test (whole sediment) withMyriophyllum aquaticum, a representative of rooted aquatic macrophytes. The aim of the present study is to demonstrate the value of a sediment contact test with rooted macrophytes as a supplement to existing test batteries in order to improve the assessment of sediment toxicity.


The newly developed sediment contact test withMyriophylhim aquaticum was applied to natural whole sediments. For performing the test, whorls ofMyriophyllum aquaticum were directly planted in the native sediment and incubated in the light at 24°C (cf. section results and discussion). The end points of the test were the number of the shoots and the fresh weight of the whole plants. The duckweed growth inhibition test withLemna minor according to ISO/DIS 20079 was performed in pore waters from sediment samples. The results of the sediment contact test withMyriophyllum aquaticum were compared with each other and with those of the aquatic duckweed test.

Results and Discussion

A test protocol for the new plant-based sediment contact test using the aquatic plantMyriophyllum aquaticum as an indicator was developed. The best control sediment proved to be the OECD sediment (OECD 207). A test period of 10 days appeared to be sufficient for the test. The increase of biomass and the derived growth rate were found to be the most suitable evaluation parameters. The growth behaviour ofMyriophyllum aquaticum differed depending on the origin of sediments. Therefore, plant-affecting contamination, that is bound in sediments, was indicated.


The novel sediment contact test withMyriophyllum aquaticum can indicate phytotoxic effects in sediments. Therefore, it allows a better assessment of the overall-toxicity in whole sediments.

Recommendations and Outlook

The sediment contact test withMyriophyllum aquaticum is a valuable tool for the evaluation of the ecotoxicological risk potential of waters and sediments. It should become a complement to a standardised test battery generally used for the assessment of sediment toxicity.

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Correspondence to Ute Feiler.

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Feiler, U., Kirchesch, I. & Heininger, P. A new plant-based bioassay for aquatic sediments. J Soils & Sediments 4, 261–266 (2004).

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