Published on March 10, 2014

A comparison of the short-term toxicity of cadmium to indigenous and alien gammarid species

10646Alien invasive species (AIS) are, next to global change, considered to be one of the major threats to global biodiversity. Globalisation and habitat deterioration positively contribute to the establishment success of AIS. Besides appropriate vectors of introduction and favourable environmental conditions their success can be attributed to species specific traits such as a high reproduction rate, an omnivorous diet and the ability to easily cope with changing environmental conditions. In this study, we hypothesized that AIS are more tolerant to metal pollution compared to native species. We tested this hypothesis based on a comparison between native and alien freshwater shrimps that were exposed to different concentrations of cadmium. We found significant differences in sensitivity to metal pollution between different species which should be taken into consideration in environmental risk assessment and water quality standard setting. There was no clear trend in Cd sensitivity between native and alien shrimps, indicating that alien species do not have an advantage over native ones in cadmium contaminated waters.  

Published on March 5, 2014

Latest study on gene-expression respones in the waterflea to combined stressors featured on


Genetic responses to environmental chemicals do not always correlate with higher-level effects, such as growth and reproduction in aquatic test species, according to our latest study recently published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. This finding potentially has important implications for risk assessment in relation to the Adverse Outcome Pathways (AOP) framework. AOPs try to predict responses at higher biological levels, which are more relevant for risk assessment, starting from genetic responses., an online repository which provides businesses with the information they need to manage the risks of chemicals responsibly, has recognized the important value of these findings and featured the study on their website. More information can be found on The website allows a free 14-day trial which gives access to the full text.

Published on March 3, 2014

Relating taxonomy-based traits of macroinvertebrates with river sediment quality based on Basic and Zero-Inflated Poisson models

ecological informationsDue to growing anthropogenic stress on aquatic ecosystems it is important to have accurate and fast methods for environmental risk assessment. Ecological assessment of freshwaters is traditionally based on the diversity approach where diversity decreases with increasing environmental disturbance. In this paper, we propose a novel approach where modelled changes in trait composition of macroinvertebrates are used to assess the river sediment quality. We hypothesized that the trait composition, in this case the body length of the organisms, would change as metal concentrations increase. We found that the abundance of macroinvertebrate taxa decreased at almost all body lengths with a decreasing quality of the metal contaminated river sediment. It was also found that the number of different body lengths decreased with increasing metal pollution, indicating a decrease in diversity of the macroinvertebrate community. Smaller organisms seemed to be more resistant to metal pollution. This research showed that trait-based ecological risk assessment has high potential, but that possibly other traits besides body length should be included to strengthen our conclusions.

Published on February 19, 2014

Ecotoxicity of binary mixtures of Microcystis aeruginosa and insecticides to Daphnia pulex

env pollutHarmful bluegreen algae such as cyanobacteria can have large impacts on aquatic ecosystems and ponds. Often, these cyanobacteria are not the only form of toxic stress present. In our recent paper, we study how cyanobacteria together with insecticides  used in crop protection can impact the model organism Daphnia. The results show that cyanobacteria and insecticides together can have significant effects on the reproduction of the daphnid. Depending on the type of insecticide used, these effects are  larger, smaller or equal to our expectations.

Published on February 11, 2014

Hard X-ray nanoprobe investigations of the subtissue metal distributions within Daphnia magna

AnalBioChemTo improve our capacity to evaluate the impact of metals on aquatic organisms, the fundamental processes of uptake, elimination and detoxification need to be fully understood. To this end, the freshwater crustacean Daphnia magna has long served as a model organism for studying whole body bio-accumulation. In order to fully comprehend the active regulation of internal concentrations within aquatic biota, the toxicological research needs to move from the microscopic tissue scale towards a (sub)cellular field of view. We developped a novel sample preparation technique which, when coupled to advanced elemental imaging, reveals the distributions of Ca, Fe and Zn within D. magna at the subtissue level. The presented technique was found to be well suited for trace-level bio-imaging which may ultimately aid in the discovery of new insights in the detoxification processes within aquatic model organisms.

Published on January 21, 2014

Additive modelling reveals spatiotemporal PCBs trends in marine sediments 

marinepollutionbulletinThe environmental fate and toxicity of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are of global concern. Spatiotemporal trend analyses of such hazardous substances are identified as a key priority by the OSPAR commission. In this paper we analyse one of the largest, longest and most complete data sets of PCBs using a regression-based technique in order to compare the levels and time trends of marine and estuarine PCB sediment concentrations between and within the Belgian Coastal Zone (BCZ) and the Western Scheldt estuary. The time trends unraveled a two to three-fold decrease in PCB concentrations in the BCZ during the past 20 years (1991-2010). However, in the Western Scheldt estuary, time trends were spatially heterogeneous and did not exhibit a significant decrease. These results demonstrate that international efforts to reduce PCB emissions have effectively reduced concentrations in open water ecosystems like the BCZ but have not affected urbanized and industrialized areas of the Scheldt estuary. The ten PCB congeners we considered followed the same trend, suggesting that no point sources are present in our study area for these congeners.

Published on January 2, 2014

The Combined Effect of Dissolved Organic Carbon and Salinity on the Bioaccumulation of Copper in Marine Mussel Larvae 

ESnTDue to natural and anthropogenic influences, copper concentrations can be elevated in the aquatic environment. However, the total dissolved Cu concentration is, by itself, an inefficient predictor of copper toxicity. Considerable efforts have been made to improve the prediction of toxic effects by taking into account the aquatic concentration of other elements and dissolved organic carbon (DOC). These models are based on Cu accumulation at a so-called biotic ligand somewhere in the exposed organism. Mussels, and especially the larvae, are very sensitive to copper. Because of their ecological and economical importance, more specific knowledge about the influence of salinity and DOC on Cu accumulation and distribution in mussel larvae was needed. By collaborating with the X-ray microscopy and imaging group of the UGent (XMI), we could use

Published on December 18, 2013

Temporary open access to research articles

open access thumb medium100 100In an effort to make research known to a broader public, Elsevier Publishers recently made some research articles open acces until January 31st, 2014. This is your chance if you are interested in some of the research performed at our lab. Currently, Jana Asselman's article "Transcription patterns of genes encoding four metallothionein homologs in Daphnia pulex exposed to copper and cadmium are time- and homolog-dependent", published in Aqutic Toxicology is open access.

Published on December 18, 2013

An approach to assess the regulatory relevance of micro-evolutionary effects in ecological risk assessment of chemicals: A case-study with Cd

etc thumb medium121 159Through ecological risk assessment (ERA) policy makers try to set protective norms for harmful chemicals in the environment. Typically, such ERAs are based on ecotoxicological research performed in the lab. However, these laboratory conditions tend to lack some measure of realism compared to the actual situation in the environment. For instance, usually only one particular individual of a species is considered in ecotoxicological tests, while in the environment multiple, different individuals are present. As with us, humans, some of these individuals can cope better with a certain chemical in the environment than others. Under continuous presence of such a chemical these, more tolerant, individuals will survive and reproduce, while the other individuals will perish. Overall, the group of individuals will become more tolerant to the chemical, a process which is called micro-evolution. In this most recent paper an approach is suggested to take this micro-evolutionary processes into account in ERA to, ultimately, make our risk assessment of chemicals in the environment more realistic.

Published on November 16, 2013

GhEnToxLab at SETAC Nashville

setaclogo2 thumb100 The Ghent University Laboratory for Environmental Toxicology will be presenting some of its research at the SETAC North America 34th Annual Meeting in Nashville, TN from 17-21 November 2013. Come and see us at the following dates and places: