Towards simple tools to assess functional effects of contaminants on natural microbial and invertebrate sediment communities
Surface sediments can accumulate contaminants that affect microorganisms and invertebrates and disturb benthic ecological functions. However, effects of contaminants on ecological functions supported by sediment communities are understudied. Here, we tested the relevance of two simple tools to assess the ecotoxicological effects of metal contamination on natural sediment communities using particulate organic matter breakdown and decomposition as a functional descriptor. To this aim, we performed a 21-day laboratory microcosm experiment to assess the individual and combined effects of Cu and As (nominal concentration of 40 mg kg−1 dw each) using the bait-lamina method (cellulose, bran flakes, and active coal in PVC strips) as well as artificial tablets (cellulose, bran flakes and active coal embedded in an agar matrix). Sediment toxicity was also evaluated using the standardized ostracod toxicity test. Both the bait-lamina and artificial tablet methods showed low effects of As on organic matter breakdown and decomposition but strong effects of Cu on this important ecological function. Both also showed that the presence of Cu and As in mixture in the sediment induced total inhibition of organic matter breakdown and decomposition. The ostracod toxicity test also showed high toxicity of Cu-spiked and Cu-plus-As-spiked sediments and low toxicity of As-spiked sediments. Besides confirming that artificial organic matter substrates are relevant and useful for assessing the functional effects of contaminants on sediment micro- and macro-organism communities, these results suggest that the proposed methods offer promising perspectives for developing tools for use in assessing functional ecotoxicology in the sediment compartment.
KeywordsBait-lamina test Functional ecotoxicology Invertebrates Metals Microbial communities Organic matter
The authors thank Bernadette Volat, Josiane Gahou, Bernard Motte and Christophe Rosy for their valuable technical support.
This work was funded by a grant from the Auvergne–Rhône-Alpes regional council (a Coopera grant for research and an Explora Pro grant for mobility awarded to Stéphane Pesce at the Ecotox Centre in Lausanne).
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