New Publications

Our freshwater ecosystems are severely threatened by many factors including pollution and climate change. In the current synthesis, we focus on the potential role of epigenetics (molecular modifications of DNA that do not change the DNA sequence). We highlight examples of the roles of DNA methylation and histone modifications, well-known epigenetic mechanisms, in the response to climate change. We conclude by pinpointing the most promising avenues for future research directions to improve our understanding on how freshwater organisms cope with climate change. With this synthesis, we provide a thorough summary of the field and put forward key research questions that need to be addressed.

Mixture effects of chemicals and their potential synergistic interactions are of great concern to the public and regulatory authorities worldwide. Discharges of chemical mixtures to marine waters might possibly have adverse effects on the aquatic communities and for the trophic food web. This study addresses ecotoxicological and biochemical effects of mixtures of the metal copper and a herbicide on a marine diatom and an estuarine calanoid copepod.
Ecological interactions and abiotic stress factors may significantly affect species sensitivities to toxicants and these are not incorporated in standard single species tests. This study tests the hypothesis if a model, calibrated solely on single species data, can explain abiotic stress factors in a two‐species microcosm, a test applied to the effects of nutritional stress (phosphorus (P)‐limitation) on zinc (Zn) toxicity to Daphnia magna.
Here, we aimed to document the interaction between EPA and cadmium (Cd), as model chemical stressor, in Daphnia magna. A life-history experiment was performed in which daphnid neonates were raised into adulthood on three diets of different lipid composition: (i) algae mix; (ii) algae mix supplemented with control liposomes; (iii) algae mix supplemented with liposomes containing EPA. Dietary liposome supplementation was found to protect adult daphnids against acute Cd challenge.           
The effect of multiple stressors on marine ecosystems remains poorly understood and most of the knowledge available is related to phytoplankton. To partly address this knowledge gap, we tested if combining multimodel inference with generalized additive modelling could quantify the relative contribution of environmental variables on the population dynamics of a zooplankton species in the Belgian part of the North Sea.

In collaboration with researchers from the Norwegian Institute for Water Research, we developed a framework to study the effects of combined environmental stress at the molecular level. This framework can provide a new way to tackle the challenges of combined stressors in risk assessment. Addressing these challenges is crucial as ecosystems are often exposed to a multitude of stressors, both chemical and natural.

In collaboration with researchers from the French nuclear institute, we studied the effects of gamma radiation on the waterflea. We have observed that effect of gamma radiation o the methylation of DNA in the first generation of animals are transmitted to the subsequent unexposed generations of offspring (children and grandchildren). Studying the effects of radiation across multiple generations will give us a better insight into the effects of nuclear power plants and other sources of radiation on our ecosystems.

Ecological risk assessment (ERA) is commonly based on single generation ecotoxicological tests that are usually performed at one standard temperature. We investigate the effects of nickel (Ni) on Daphnia magna reproduction at 15, 20 and 25°C along four generations.
The population structure of the non-indigenous calanoid copepod Pseudodiaptomus marinus (Sato, 1913) in the Belgian part of the North Sea (BPNS) is reported for the first time. Detailed P. marinus abundance data including sex and age class of the individuals was gathered on a monthly basis from February 2015 to February 2016 at six sites within the BPNS and Belgian harbors.
Under natural conditions, organisms can experience a variety of abiotic (e.g. temperature, pH) and biotic (e.g. species interactions) conditions, which can interact with toxicant effects. By ignoring species interactions conventional ecotoxicological studies (i.e. single species tests) oversimplify the actual field situation. Here, we investigated whether temperature and interspecific competition affected the effects of zinc on a Daphnia longispina population.