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Effects of a fire retardant on the Near Eastern Fire Salamander Salamandra infraimmaculata and aquatic community structure: an experimental approach

Abstract

Fire retardants are commonly used for fighting wildfires. Retardant chemicals washed via runoff into aquatic systems may be concentrated, thus exposing aquatic species to high levels of ammonium, phosphate, and iron. These chemicals directly affect individual species, which can also cascade to the rest of the aquatic community. We investigated the effects of a prevalent fire retardant, FR CROS 134 (FR), at various concentrations (0 to 11.4 × 102 mg l−1) on larval fire salamander (Salamandra infraimmaculata) and aquatic community structure (bacteria, algae and invertebrates) using mesocosms. We show a negative effect of the presence of FR on the survivorship and time to metamorphosis of salamander larvae (94–17% and 48–64 days, respectively). Moreover, increasing FR concentrations were found to inhibit the predation rate of salamander larvae on mosquito larvae (89–14%). FR decreased the invertebrate community diversity with changes in composition and shifts in evenness and dominance (e.g., cladoceran species abundance increased, whereas calanoid copepod species declined). Finally, cyanobacteria and eukaryotic algal abundance increased, while heterotrophic bacterial abundance decreased with FR addition. The effects of fire retardants on biodiversity found here and the growing use of fire retardants worldwide call for additional evidence-based assessment of their impact, especially in aquatic ecosystems.

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Acknowledgements

This study was funded by a DIP grant (961-2008) awarded to Leon Blaustein and Alan Templeton (DFG reference number BL 1271/1-1), as well as Sebastian Steinfartz and Arne Nolte (SRE 1130/8-1). Additional funding was provided by an Israel Science Foundation grant (891/2012) to Leon Blaustein. Jamie Kneitel was supported by the Fulbright Scholar Program and the US-Israel Educational Foundation. We thank the Israel Fire and Rescue Authority for providing us with FR CROS 134. We also thank Prof. Offer Ovadia for helping with the time-to-event analyses. Lastly, we thank Ori Segev, Valentina Rovelli, Nadav Pezaro, Sahar Rosenfeld, Avi Koplovich, Maxim Krakhmalnyi, Hadar Shalom, and Claire Duchet for their help with laboratory work and fruitful discussions. This work is in partial fulfillment of the M.Sc. thesis of Lital Ozeri (University of Haifa). This study is in memory of our dear and beloved colleague and friend Leon Blaustein who passed away in June 2020.

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Ozeri, L., Blaustein, L., Polevikov, A. et al. Effects of a fire retardant on the Near Eastern Fire Salamander Salamandra infraimmaculata and aquatic community structure: an experimental approach. Hydrobiologia 848, 4713–4729 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10750-021-04670-2

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Keywords

  • Amphibians
  • Invertebrates
  • Eutrophication
  • Metamorphosis
  • Vernal pools
  • Wildfire