Is Hyalella azteca a Suitable Model Leaf-Shredding Benthic Crustacean for Testing the Toxicity of Sediment-Associated Metals in Europe?

  • Jochen P. ZubrodEmail author
  • Dominic Englert
  • Alexander Feckler
  • Ricki R. Rosenfeldt
  • Hendrik Pasternack
  • Henner Hollert
  • Thomas-Benjamin Seiler
  • Ralf Schulz
  • Mirco BundschuhEmail author


The leaf-shredding crustacean Hyalella azteca, which is indigenous to Northern and Central America, is used to assess environmental risks associated with (metal-)contaminated sediments and to propose sediment quality standards also in Europe. Yet, it is unknown if H. azteca is protective for European crustacean shredders. We thus compared the sensitivity of H. azteca with that of the European species Asellus aquaticus and Gammarus fossarum towards copper- and cadmium-contaminated sediments (prepared according to OECD 218) under laboratory conditions employing mortality and leaf consumption as endpoints. H. azteca either reacted approximately fourfold more sensitive than the most tolerant tested species (as for cadmium) or its sensitivity was only 1.6 times lower than the highest sensitivity determined (as for copper), which should be covered by safety factors applied during risk assessments. Therefore, the results for the sediment type and the two heavy metals tested during the present study in combination with the existence of standardized testing protocols, their ease of culture, and short generation time, suggest H. azteca as suitable crustacean model shredder for assessing the toxicity of sediment-associated metals in Europe.


Body burden Ecosystem functioning Metals Sediment toxicity tests Shredders 



We thank P. Baudy, T. Bürgi, M. Konschak, and a number of students for their help in the laboratory and M. Weil (ECT Oekotoxikologie GmbH) for providing the H. azteca to start our in-house culture. Reviewers and editor of this paper are acknowledged for their helpful comments.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

Some of the authors (R.R.R. and R.S.) are managing directors of small environmental consultancies or are now employed at a consultancy (D.E. and H.P.). The authors, however, do not feel a conflict of interest as a consequence of this situation.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Environmental SciencesUniversity of Koblenz-LandauLandauGermany
  2. 2.Eußerthal Ecosystem Research StationUniversity of Koblenz-LandauEußerthalGermany
  3. 3.Department of Aquatic Sciences and AssessmentSwedish University of Agricultural SciencesUppsalaSweden
  4. 4.nEcoToxAnnweilerGermany
  5. 5.Department of Ecosystem Analysis, Institute for Environmental ResearchRWTH Aachen UniversityAachenGermany

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