Published on January 2, 2013

Combined and interactive effects of global climate change and toxicants on populations and communities

open access thumb medium100 100Increased temperature and other environmental effects of global climate change (GCC) have documented impacts on many species (e.g., polar bears, amphibians, coral reefs) as well as on ecosystem processes and species interactions (e.g., the timing of predator–prey interactions). A challenge for ecotoxicologists is to predict how joint effects of climatic stress and toxicants measured at the individual level (e.g., reduced survival and reproduction) will be manifested at the population level (e.g., population growth rate, extinction risk) and community level (e.g., species richness, food-web structure). The authors discuss how population- and community-level responses to toxicants under GCC are likely to be influenced by various ecological mechanisms. Stress due to GCC may reduce the potential for resistance to and recovery from toxicant exposure. Long-term toxicant exposure can result in acquired tolerance to this stressor at the population or community level, but an associated cost of tolerance may be the reduced potential for tolerance to subsequent climatic stress (or vice versa). Moreover, GCC can induce large-scale shifts in community composition, which may affect the vulnerability of communities to other stressors. Ecological modeling based on species traits (representing life-history traits, population vulnerability, sensitivity to toxicants, and sensitivity to climate change) can be a promising approach for predicting combined impacts of GCC and toxicants on populations and communities.

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Published on November 20, 2012

Check out our project websites

  •  Aquastress

    The AquaStress project investigates multiple stress in aquatic systems across multiple levels of biological organization and to assess to what extent multiple stress effects occurring at higher levels of organization can be predicted/explained based on observations of effects occurring at lower levels.

  • Daphnia Genomics Consortium

Published on November 6, 2012

LMAE at SETAC Longbeachsetaclogo2

The research group Environmental Toxicology will be presenting some of its research at the SETAC North America 33rd Annual Meeting in Longbeach, California from 11-15 November 2012. Come and see us at these dates and places!

Published on October 26, 2012

The potential for adaptation in a natural Daphnia magna population: broad- and narrow-sense heritability of netreproductive rate under Cd stress at two temperatures

The existence of genetic variability is a key element of the adaptive potential of a natural population to stress. In this study we estimated the additive and non-additive components of the genetic variability of net reproductive rate (R-0) in a natural Daphnia magna population exposed to Cd stress at two different temperatures. To this end, life-table experiments were conducted with 20 parental and 39 offspring clonal lineages following a 2 x 2 design with Cd concentration (control vs. 3.7 mu g Cd/L) and temperature (20 vs. 24 A degrees C) as factors. Offspring lineages were obtained through inter-clonal crossing of the different parental lineages. The population mean, additive and non-additive genetic components of variation in each treatment were estimated by fitting an Animal Model to the observed R-0 values using restricted maximum likelihood estimation. From those estimates broad-sense heritabilities (H-2), narrow-sense heritabilities (h(2)), total (CVG) and additive genetic coefficients of variation (CVA) of R-0 were calculated. The exposure to Cd imposed a considerable level of stress to the population, as shown by the fact that the population mean of R-0 exposed to Cd was significantly lower than in the control at the corresponding temperature, i.e. by 23 % at 20 A degrees C and by 88 % at 24 A degrees C. The latter difference indicates that increasing temperature increased the stress level imposed by Cd. The HA(2) and CVG were significantly greater than 0 in all treatments, suggesting that there is a considerable degree of genetic determination of R-0 in this population and that clonal selection could rapidly lead to increasing population mean fitness under all investigated conditions. More specifically, the HA(2) was 0.392 at 20 A degrees C+Cd and 0.563 at 24 A degrees C+Cd; the CVG was 30.0 % at 20 A degrees C+Cd and was significantly higher (147.6 %) in

Published on August 27, 2012

Biodiversity of freshwater diatom communities during 1000 years of metal mining, land use, and climate change in Central Sweden

Frederik De Laender and colleagues subjected a unique set of high-quality paleoecological data to statistical modeling to examine if the biological richness and evenness of freshwater diatom communities in the Falun area, a historical copper (Cu) mining region in central Sweden, was negatively influenced by 1000 years of metal exposure. Contrary to ecotoxicological predictions, we found no negative relation between biodiversity and the sedimentary concentrations of eight metals. Strikingly, our analysis listed metals (Co, Fe, Cu, Zn, Cd, Pb) or the fractional land cover of cultivated crops, meadow, and herbs indicating land disturbance as potentially promoting biodiversity. However, correlation between metal- and land-cover trends prevented concluding which of these two covariate types positively affected biodiversity. Because historical aqueous metal concentrations—inferred from solid-water partitioning—approached experimental toxicity thresholds for freshwater algae, positive effects of metal mining on biodiversity are unlikely. Instead, the positive relationship between biodiversity and historical land-cover change can be explained by the increasing proportion of opportunistic species when anthropogenic disturbance intensifies. Our analysis illustrates that focusing on the direct toxic effects of metals alone may yield inaccurate environmental assessments on time scales relevant for biodiversity conservation.

Full reference (link)

De Laender F, Verschuren D, Bindler R, Thas O, Janssen CR. 2012. Biodiversity of Freshwater Diatom Communities during 1000 Years of Metal Mining, Land Use,

Published on August 25, 2012

Micro-plastics in mussel tissue

Researchers of the Laboratory of Envrionmental Toxicology of Ghent Universitmosselsy found plastic micro particles in mussel tissue. Mussels from the North Sea contain on average one plastic particle per gram of tissue. They take it up from the seawater, which is highly polluted by plastics from cosmetics, synthetic clothing and packaging. "Thus, per serving of  mussels, which contains about three hundred grams of mussel meat, you get three hundred pieces of plastic inside your body

Published on August 23, 2012

Ghent University signs cooperation agreements with the Flanders Marine Institute

image marineugentOn August 23, 2012 the Ghent University signed a unique cooperation agreement with the Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ).24 research units from five faculties, united in the cluster 'Marine@UGent' will collaborte intensively with the VLIZ  on marine and coastal research topics. A warehouse at the 'Marine Station Oostende' (Oosteroever) will be arranged for the Ghent University researchers. It is expected that this and all other actions framed by this agreement will lead to a lot of new research findings.

"This multidisciplinarity and the desire to cooperate more actively on sea and coastal-related themes make this a unique consortium. By joining forces with the VLIZ we can also tie in more closely with the central supporting role and tasks that the Flanders Marine Institute plays" says Professor Colin Janssen, Chairman of Marine@UGent and also Vice-President of the VLIZ and head of the Lab of Environmental Toxicology at Ghent University.

Published on August 20, 2012

Identification of pathways, gene networks, paralogous gene families in Daphnia pulex responing to exposure to the toxic cyanobacterium Microcystis aeruginosa

Jana Asselman and colleagues describe in their most recent paper the implementation of a whole-genome expression microarray to identify pathways, gene networks, and paralogous gene families responsive to the toxic cyanobacterium Microcystis in the waterflea Daphnia pulex. They identified four pathways/gene networks and eight paralogous gene families affected by Microcystis. Differential regulation of the ribosome, including three paralogous gene families encoding 40S, 60S, and mitochondrial ribosomal proteins, suggests an impact of Microcystis on protein synthesis of D. pulex. In addition, differential regulation of the oxidative phosphorylation pathway (including the NADH:ubquinone oxidoreductase gene family) and the trypsin paralogous gene family (a major component of the digestive system in D. pulex) could explain why fitness is reduced based on energy budget considerations.

Full reference (link)

Asselman J, De Coninck D, Glaholt S, Colbourne JK, Janssen CR, Shaw JR, De Schamphelaere KAC. 2012. Identification of Pathways, Gene Networks, and Paralogous Gene Families in Daphnia pulex Responding to Exposure to the Toxic Cyanobacterium Microcystis aeruginosa. Environ. Sci. Technol. 46(15) : 8448–8457.

Published on June 1, 2012

Poster award at SETAC 6th World Congress

We recently successfully presented our research at the SETAC Europe 22nd Annual Meeting / 6th SETAC World Congress in Berlin from 20-24 May 2012 in 8 platform and 14 poster presentations. Moreover, Lisbeth Van Cauwenberghe earned the Tom Feijtel best poster award with her poster entitled "Selective uptake of microplastics by a marine bivalve (Mytilus edulis)" [download poster]. Congratulations, Lisbeth!