Published on May 26, 2015

Microplastic pollution is increasingly being considered as a threat to the marine environment in general and to small marine invertebrates at the base of the food chain in particlular As microplastics occur both in the seawater and in the sediment, we investigated the potential for microplastic ingestion in two organisms inhabiting these environments: the blue mussel (Mytilus edulis) and the lugworm (Arenicola marina). As a follow-up to our previously published research, the microplastic load in field-collected organisms - i.e. exposed to ambient microplastic concentrations - was assessed.  In all collected specimens, we detected low concentrations of microplastics in both species, although the sediment dwelling lugworms contained somewhat higher concentrations. Subsequently, potential impacts of microplastic uptake of these species were assessed. Although some responses were measured, we detected no significant adverse effects of microplastic ingestion.

Published on May 18, 2015

Recently Eng. Gert Everaert successfully defended his PhD and received the title of Doctor of Applied Biological Sciences. His research dealt with the potential risk of organic micropollutants on marine phytoplankton in the greater North Sea: integration of modelling and experimental approaches. The full version of his thesis can be found at Ghent University Academic Bibliography (link). His promotors, Prof. dr. Colin Janssen and Prof. dr. ir. Peter Goethals (aquatic ecology), and the whole GhEnToxLab staff wish him the best in his further (academic) career. Congratulations Gert!

Published on May 12, 2015

In a recent research paper published in Chemosphere, Gert Everaert and co-workers quantified the relative contribution of persistent organic pollutants to marine phytoplankton biomass dynamics. To do so, they used concentrations of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) to infer potential POP-induced effects on marine primary production in the Kattegat and the North Sea. They modelled phytoplankton dynamics using four classical drivers (light and nutrient availability, temperature and zooplankton grazing) and tested whether extending this model with a POP-induced phytoplankton growth limitation term improved predictions of the observed chlorophyll a concentrations.

Published on May 6, 2015

Our latest microplastic research was included in the Science for Environment Policy news alert published by the European Commission’s DG Environment. This news alert summarises scientific studies carefully selected for quality and European policy relevance. Our research selected for publication in the news alert was the recently published paper on microplastics in two key marine species: mussels and lugworms.

Published on May 4, 2015

Yesterday, prof. Karel De Schamphelaere presented the launch of the SETAC Europe Certification of Environmental Risk Assessors at the opening ceremony of the SETAC Conference in Barcelona. This program aims to harmonize and further strengthen science in environmental risk assessment by continuous education, training and by certification of risk assessors who show to have a broad multidisciplinary competence portfolio.

Published on April 29, 2015

In the European Union and the United States, two differently structured bioavailability models are used in risk assessments of copper. These models, the biotic ligand models (BLM), are valuable tools based on the concept that toxicity depends on the concentration of metal bound to a biological binding site; the biotic ligand. The application of these different BLMs implies that a discrepancy exists between regulation of aquatic toxicity in the U.S. and the E.U. In this study we evaluated the capacity of these BLMs to predict chronic copper toxicity to two water flea clones (Daphnia magna). We found that one BLM performed best with one clone, while the other BLM performed best with the other clone.

Published on April 27, 2015

Next week, 10 GhEnToxLab members will be presenting their research at the 25th SETAC Europe Annual Meeting in Barcelona, Spain from 3-7 May 2015. There we will highlight our research in a total of four platforms, one poster corner and 8 posters. To keep track of us during the conference, a comprehensive list of our activities is provided below.

Published on April 24, 2015

Eurometaux, the European non-ferrous metals association, and Arche Consulting produced a video on the Environmental Quality Standards (EQS) for metals. The EQS are essential to protect and sustain a good ecological and chemical quality of European surface waters. This deals within the objective of the water framework directive. Our lab collaborated in this production and a few lab members can be seen in the video.

Click here to see the movie.

Published on April 21, 2015

Over the last decade, scientific technologies have improved significantly. While it took more than ten years and about 3 billion dollars to sequence the first human genome, prices for genome sequencing are currently plummeting. Now, you can even send your own DNA sample to commercial compagnies for about 100 dollars and learn about your genetic ancestry. Yet, despite this massive amount of data generated, we still cannot understand what the majority of that DNA is doing. Which genes are causing diseases? Which genes are responding to toxicants?

Published on April 16, 2015

Species interactions are often overlooked when assessing the ecological impact of chemicals. However, they can greatly influence the way a population is affected by a chemical, either increasing or decreasing a chemical’s effects. In this publication, we examined three types of species interactions – intraspecific competition, interspecific competition and predation – in Daphnia magna populations exposed to pyrene. Predation and high initial intraspecific competition were shown to interact antagonistically with pyrene exposure i.e. the effect of pyrene was less pronounced. This was attributed to differences in population structure prior to pyrene exposure and pyrene-induced reductions in predation pressure. This study is a good example of how species interactions can alter the response of a population to chemical exposure in a way that cannot be predicted from single species tests alone.