Uranium Exposure to the Tropical Duckweed Lemna aequinoctialis and Pulmonate Snail Amerianna cumingi: Fate and Toxicity

  • Alicia C. Hogan
  • Rick A. van Dam
  • Melanie A. Houston
  • Andrew J. Harford
  • Suthidha Nou


The discharge of catchment-management water from the Ranger uranium (U) mine into Magela Creek upstream of the Ramsar-listed Magela Floodplain in Kakadu National Park is an important part of the mine’s water-management system. Because U is one of the primary toxicants associated with this water, a receiving-water trigger value (TV), based on chronic toxicity data from five local native species, was derived for U. To strengthen the data set underpinning the derivation of the TV, the chronic toxicity of U to two additional tropical freshwater species, duckweed Lemna aequinoctialis (96-hour growth rate), and pulmonate gastropod, Amerianna cumingi (96-hour reproduction), was determined. The fate of U within the test systems was an important component of the study because analysis of U concentrations during the snail tests indicated that a substantial proportion of U (approximately 25%) was being lost from the test solutions when integrated during the entire test duration. Analysis of the snails and their food for U indicated that only a small proportion that was lost from solution was being taken up by the snails. Therefore, the majority of U that was lost was considered unavailable to the snails, and thus the exposure concentrations used to calculate the toxicity estimates were adjusted downward. Integrating the loss of U from the L. aequinoctialis test solutions over time showed that only a small proportion (6% to 13%) was lost during the test: Of that, almost half (2–5%) was taken up by the plants (constituting exposure). Uranium was only moderately toxic to L. aequinoctialis, with no observed–effect concentrations, lowest observed–effect concentrations, and inhibition concentrations causing 10% and 50% effects (IC10 and IC50) values of 226, 404, 207, and 1435 μg/l, respectively. A. cumingi was found to be more sensitive to U than L. aequinoctialis, with NOEC, LOEC, IC10, and IC50 values of 60, 61, 15, and 278 μg/l, respectively. The data for these two additional species will be used to revise the current TV for U in Magela Creek.


  1. Alligator Rivers Region Research Institute (ARRRI) (1988) Annual research summary 1987–1988. Supervising Scientist for the Alligator Rivers Region. Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra, AustraliaGoogle Scholar
  2. Australian and New Zealand Environment Conservation Council/Agriculture and Resource Management Council of Australia and New Zealand (2000) Australian and New Zealand guidelines for fresh and marine water quality. National Water Quality Management Strategy Paper No. 4, Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council and Agriculture and Resource Management Council of Australia and New Zealand, Canberra, Australia Google Scholar
  3. Baird DJ, Barber I, Bradley M, Soares AMVM, Calow P (1991) A comparative study of genotype sensitivity to acute toxic stress using clones of Daphnia magna Straus. Ecotoxicol Environ Saf 21:257–265CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Briat J-F, Lebrun M (1998) Plant responses to metal toxicity. Plant Biol Pathol 322:43–54Google Scholar
  5. Burrows-Ellis YL (1994) Comparative responses of two species of freshwater snails in concurrent field and laboratory tests. Open File Record 115. Supervising Scientist for the Alligator Rivers Region, Canberra, AustraliaGoogle Scholar
  6. Bywater JF, Banaczkowski R, Bailey M (1991) Sensitivity to U of six species of tropical freshwater fishes and four species of cladoceran from northern Australia. Environ Toxicol Chem 10:1449–1458CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Charles AL, Markich SJ, Stauber JL, de Filippis LF (2002) The effect of water hardness on the toxicity of uranium to a tropical freshwater alga (Chlorella sp.). Aquat Toxicol 60:61–73CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Charles AL, Markich SJ, Ralph P (2006) Toxicity of uranium and copper individually, and in combination, to a tropical freshwater macrophyte (Lemna aequinoctialis). Chemosphere 62:1224–1233CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cowie ID, Short PS, Osterkamp Madsen M (2000) Floodplain flora: a flora of the coastal floodplains of the Northern Territory, Australia. Australian Biological Resources Study, Canberra & Parks and Wildlife Commission of the Northern Territory, Darwin, pp 216–217Google Scholar
  10. Fournier E, Tran D, Denison F, Massabuau J-C, Garnier-Laplace J (2004) Valve closure response to uranium exposure for a freshwater bivalve (Corbicula fluminea): quantification of the influence of pH. Environ Toxicol Chem 23:1108–1114CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Franklin N, Stauber JL, Markich SJ, Lim RP (2000) pH dependent toxicity of copper and uranium to a tropical freshwater alga (Chlorella sp.). Aquat Toxicol 48:275–289CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Hogan AC, van Dam RA, Markich SJ, Camilleri C (2005) Chronic toxicity of uranium to a tropical green alga (Chlorella sp.) in natural waters and the influence of dissolved organic carbon. Aquat Toxicol 75:343–353CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Holdway DA (1992) Uranium toxicity to two species of Australian tropical fish. Sci Total Environ 125:137–158CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hose GC, van den Brink PJ (2004) Confirming the species-sensitivity distribution concept for endosulfan using laboratory, mesocosm, and field data. Arch Environ Con Toxicol 47:511–520CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Houston M, Hogan A, van Dam R, Nou S (2007) Procedure for the 96 hour gastropod reproduction toxicity test using Amerianna cumingi. Internal report 525, June, Supervising Scientist, Darwin. Unpublished paper available at http://www.environment.gov.au/ssd/publications/ir/index.html. Accessed December 2009
  16. Houston M, Ng J, Noller B, Markich SJ, van Dam R (2008) The influence of Suwannee River fulvic acid on the speciation and toxicity of uranium to Australian tropical freshwater species. In: Perminova IV, Kulikova NA (eds) From molecular understanding to innovative applications of humic substances: proceedings of the 14th meeting of the International Humic Substances Society. Moscow, Russia, September 13–19Google Scholar
  17. Humphrey CL, Lewis BF, Brown I, Suggit JL (1995) ERISS Protocol for the creekside monitoring of Magela Creek waters: I. Freshwater snail, Amerianna cumingii, reproduction and survival test. Internal report 180, Supervising Scientist for the Alligator Rivers Region, Canberra. Unpublished paper available at http://www.environment.gov.au/ssd/publications/ir/index.html. Accessed December 2009
  18. Hyne RV, Rippon GD, Ellender G (1992) pH dependent uranium toxicity to freshwater hydra. Sci Total Environ 125:159–173CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Markich SJ, Camilleri C (1997) Investigation of metal toxicity to tropical biota: recommendations for revision of the Australian water quality guidelines. Supervising Scientist Report 127. Supervising Scientist, Canberra, AustraliaGoogle Scholar
  20. Markich SJ, Brown PL, Jeffree RA (1996) The use of geochemical speciation modelling to predict the impact of uranium to freshwater biota. Radiochim Acta 74:321–326Google Scholar
  21. Markich SJ, Brown PL, Jeffree RA, Lim RP (2000) Valve movement responses of Velesunio angasi (Bivalvia: Hyriidae) to manganese and uranium: an exception to the free ion activity model. Aquat Toxicol 51:155–175CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Mkandawire M, Dudel GE (2002) Uranium attenuation from tailing waters by floating macrophyte Lemna gibba L. In: Merkel JB, Planer-Friedrich B, Wolkersdorfer C (eds) Uranium in the aquatic environment. Springer, Berlin, Germany, pp 623–630Google Scholar
  23. Mkandawire M, Vogel K, Taubert B, Dudel EG (2007) Phosphate regulates uranium (VI) toxicity to Lemna gibba L. G3. Environ Toxicol 22:9–16CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Nyholm N (1985) Response variable in algal growth inhibition tests—biomass or growth rate? Water Res 19:273–279CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (2006) Lemna spp. growth inhibition test. OECD guidelines for the testing of chemicals # 221. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Paris, FranceGoogle Scholar
  26. Ravera O (1991) Influence of heavy metals on the reproduction and embryonic development of freshwater pulmonates (Gastropoda: Mollusca) and cladocerans (Crustacea: Arthropoda). Comp Biochem Physiol C 100(1–2):215–219CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Ribera D, Labrot F, Tisnerat G, Narbonne JF (1996) Uranium in the environment: occurrence, transfer and biological affects. Rev Environ Contam Toxicol 146:53–89Google Scholar
  28. Riethmuller N, Markich SJ, van Dam RA, Parry D (2001) Effects of water hardness and alkalinity on the toxicity of uranium to a tropical freshwater hydra (Hydra viridissima). Biomarkers 6:45–51CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Riethmuller N, Camilleri C, Franklin N, Hogan AC, King A, Koch A, et al (2003) Ecotoxicological testing protocols for Australian tropical freshwater ecosystems. Supervising Scientist Report 173, Supervising Scientist, Darwin NTGoogle Scholar
  30. Semaan M, Holdway D, van Dam RA (2001) Comparative sensitivity of three populations of the Cladoceran Moinodaphnia macleayi to acute and chronic uranium exposure. Environ Toxicol 16:365–376CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Sheppard SC (2001) Toxicants in the environment: bringing radioecology and ecotoxicology together. In: Brachingnac F, Howard BJ (eds) Radioactive pollutants: impact on the environment. EDP Sciences, Les Ulis, France, pp 63–74Google Scholar
  32. Smith BJ (1992) Non-marine mollusca. In: Houston WWK (ed) Zoological catalogue of Australia, vol 8. Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra, p xxiGoogle Scholar
  33. van Dam RA, Humphrey CL, Martin P (2002) Mining in the alligator rivers region, northern Australia: assessing potential and actual effects on ecosystem and human health. Toxicology 181–182:505–515Google Scholar
  34. van Dam RA, Camilleri C, Turley C, Binet MT, Stauber JL (2004) Chronic toxicity of the herbicide tebuthiuron to the tropical green alga Chlorella sp. and the duckweed Lemna aequinoctialis. Australas J Ecotoxicol 10:97–104Google Scholar
  35. Vandenhove H, Cuypers A, van Hees M, Koppen G, Wannijn J (2006) Oxidative stress reactions induced in beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) following exposure to uranium. Plant Physiol Biochem 44:795–805CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alicia C. Hogan
    • 1
  • Rick A. van Dam
    • 1
  • Melanie A. Houston
    • 1
  • Andrew J. Harford
    • 1
  • Suthidha Nou
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage, and the ArtsEnvironmental Research Institute of the Supervising ScientistDarwinAustralia

Personalised recommendations