New Publications

New techniques for the detection of microplastics in sediments and field collected organisms

marinepollutionbulletinMicroplastics have been reported in marine environments worldwide. Accurate assessment of quantity and type is therefore needed. Here, we propose new techniques for extracting microplastics from sediment and invertebrate tissue. The method developed for sediments involves a volume reduction of the sample by elutriation, followed by density separation using a high density NaI solution. Comparison of this methods' efficiency to that of a widely used technique indicated that the new method has a considerably higher extraction efficiency. For fibres and granules an increase of 23% and 39% was noted, extraction efficiency of PVC increased by 100%. The second method aimed at extracting microplastics from animal tissues based on chemical digestion. Extraction of microspheres yielded high efficiencies (94–98%). For fibres, efficiencies were highly variable (0–98%), depending on polymer type. The use of these two techniques will result in a more complete assessment of marine microplastic concentrations.

Full reference (link)

Claessens M, Van Cauwenberghe L, Vandegehuchte M, Janssen CR. 2013. New techniques for the detection of microplastics in sediments and field collected organisms. Marine Pollution Bulletin, In press.

Monitoring micropollutants in marine waters, can quality standards be met?

marinepollutionbulletinThe environmental risks of 33 micropollutants occurring in Belgian coastal zone were assessed as single substances and as mixtures. Water and sediment samples were taken in harbors, coastal waters and the Scheldt estuary during 2007–2009. Measured environmental concentrations were compared to quality standards such as Predicted No Effect Concentrations (PNECs), Environmental Quality Standards (EQSs), and Ecotoxicological Assessment Criteria (EAC). Out of a total of 2547 samples analyzed, 232 and 126 samples exceeded the EQS and EAC, respectively. Highest risks were observed for TBT, PBDEs, PCBs and the PAHs anthracene, indeno(1,2,3-cd)pyrene, benzo(g,h,i)perylene, benzo(k)fluoranthene, and benzo(b)fluoranthene in the water compartment and for TBT and PCBs in the sediment compartment. Samples taken at all stations during the April 2008 campaign indicate a potential risk of the contaminant mixtures to the aquatic environment (except W06 station). This study argues the need to revise quality standards when appropriate and hence the overall regulatory implication of these standards.

Full reference (link)

Ghekiere A, Verdonck F, Claessens M, Monteyne E, Roose P, Wille K, Goffin A, Rappé K, Janssen CR. 2013. Monitoring micropollutants in marine waters, can quality standards be met? Marine Pollution Bulletin 69:243-250.

Application of a silicone rubber passive sampling technique for monitoring PAHs and PCBs at three Belgian coastal harbours

chemosphereA 4-year monitoring study - coordinated by our lab - was performed to examine the freely dissolved water concentrations of PAHs and PCBs in three coastal harbours and at an offshore station in the North Sea. The results are part of a more extensive study to provide information on occurrence, distribution and effects of pollutants in the Belgian coastal zone. In the present study silicone rubber passive samplers were used. We found that the non-linear least-square (NLS) method proved to be suitable for estimating sampling rates when using the following performance reference compounds: fluorene-d10, phenanthrene-d10, fluoranthene-d10, benzo(e)pyrened12, coronene-d12, CB10, CB14, CB50, CB104, CB145 and CB204. The application of two NLS methods for estimating the sampling rate (Rs) resulted in significant differences for freely dissolved concentrations for individual compounds of up to 30% between the two methods. A model that takes into account the decrease of sampling rate for compounds with higher molecular weight should give a more accurate Rs and was the preferred estimation method. Rs varied from 0.9 to 34.8 L/d for the different target compounds, while estimated freely dissolved concentrations for sum 15 PAHs varied between 3.9 and170 ng/L and for sum 14 PCBs between 0.030 and 3.1 ng/L. The stations located within marinas showed the highest level of contamination, while the offshore station (5 mile from coastline) exhibited the lowest level. The implications of the use of passive samplers for monitoring programs are discussed.

Full reference (link)

Monteyne E, Roose R, Janssen CR. 2013. Application of a silicone rubber passive sampling technique for monitoring PAHs and PCBs at three Belgian coastal harbours. Chemosphere 91:390-398.

Whole sediment toxicity tests for metal risk assessments: On the importance of equilibration and test design to increase ecological relevance

etc cover2Current laboratory-based approaches for predicting metal toxicity in sediments exhibit a number of limitations. The most important are (1) a lack of sufficient equilibration resulting in unrealistically low pH values or unnaturally high pore water metal concentrations and (2) an inadequate test design regarding the metal concentrations selected for spiking. This study illustrates that by explicitly accounting for these limitations, one obtains reliable and environmentally realistic toxicity data, thus advancing the metal risk assessments of sediments. To this end, a toxicity test design with natural sediments was developed in which the administered metal concentrations were selected to comprise a range of [SEM-AVS] (the difference between the molar concentration of simultaneously extracted metals and acid volatile sulfides) closely surrounding zero. In addition, the presented test design includes a 35 or 40 day equilibration period with overlying water renewal during which conductivity, pH and metal concentrations in the overlying water are monitored. This allows toxicity testing to start after equilibrium for these parameters has been reached. This test design was applied to Ephoron virgo (Olivier, 1791), Gammarus pulex (Linnaeus, 1758) and Lumbriculus variegatus (Mueller, 1774) exposed to Zn and Pb. These tests indicated that the general concept of absence of toxicity when [SEM-AVS]<0 could not be rejected. However, the onset of Zn toxicity occurred at lower concentrations than generally assumed.

Full reference (link)

Vandegehuchte MB, Nguyen LTH, De Laender F, Muyssen BTA, Janssen CR. 2013. Whole sediment toxicity tests for metal risk assessments: On the importance of equilibration and test design to increase ecological relevance. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry. Accepted. DOI: 10.1002/etc.2156.

Using additive modelling to quantify the effect of chemicals on phytoplankton diversity and biomass

scitotenvEnvironmental authorities require the protection of biodiversity and other ecosystem properties such as biomass production. However, the endpoints listed in available ecotoxicological datasets generally do not contain these two ecosystem descriptors. Inferring the effects of chemicals on such descriptors from micro- or mesocosm experiments is often hampered by inherent differences in the initial biodiversity levels between experimental units or by delayed community responses. Here we introduce additive modelling to establish the effects of a chronic application of the herbicide linuron on 10 biodiversity indices and phytoplankton biomass in microcosms. We found that communities with a low (high) initial biodiversity subsequently became more (less) diverse, indicating an equilibrium biodiversity status in the communities considered here. Linuron adversely affected richness and evenness while dominance increased but no biodiversity indices were different from the control treatment at linuron concentrations below 2.4 μg/L. Richness-related indices changed at lower linuron concentrations (effects noticeable from 2.4 μg/L) than other biodiversity indices (effects noticeable from 14.4 μg/L) and, in contrast to the other indices, showed no signs of recovery following chronic exposure. Phytoplankton biomass was unaffected by linuron due to functional redundancy within the phytoplankton community. Comparing thresholds for biodiversity with conventional toxicity test results showed that standard ecological risk assessments also protect biodiversity in the case of linuron.

Full reference (link)

Viaene K, De Laender F, Van den Brink PJ, Janssen C. 2013. Using additive modelling to quantify the effect of chemicals on phytoplankton diversity and biomass Science of the Total Environment 449:71-80.

Interactive effects of a bacterial parasite and the insecticide carbaryl to life-history and physiology of two Daphnia magna clones differing in carbaryl sensitivity

aquatic toxicologyNatural and chemical stressors occur simultaneously in the aquatic environment. Their combined effects on biota are usually difficult to predict from their individual effects due to interactions between the different stressors. Several recent studies have suggested that synergistic effects of multiple stressors on organisms may be more common at high compared to low overall levels of stress. In this study, we used a three-way full factorial design to investigate whether interactive effects between a natural stressor, the bacterial parasite Pasteuria ramosa, and a chemical stressor, the insecticide carbaryl, were different between two genetically distinct clones of Daphnia magna that strongly differ in their sensitivity to carbaryl. Interactive effects on various life-history and physiological endpoints were assessed as significant deviations from the reference Independent Action (IA) model, which was implemented by testing the significance of the two-way carbaryl × parasite interaction term in two-way ANOVA's on log-transformed observational data for each clone separately. Interactive effects (and thus significant deviations from IA) were detected in both the carbaryl-sensitive clone (on survival, early reproduction and growth) and in the non-sensitive clone (on growth, electron transport activity and prophenoloxidase activity). No interactions were found for maturation rate, filtration rate, and energy reserve fractions (carbohydrate, protein, lipid). Furthermore, only antagonistic interactions were detected in the non-sensitive clone, while only synergistic interactions were observed in the carbaryl sensitive clone. Our data clearly show that there are genetically determined differences in the interactive effects following combined exposure to carbaryl and Pasteuria in D. magna.

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Interactive effects of a bacterial parasite and the insecticide carbaryl to life-history and physiology of two Daphnia magna clones differing in carbaryl sensitivity

Full reference (link)

De Coninck DIM, De Schamphelaere KAC, Jansen M, De Meester L, Janssen CR. 2013. Interactive effects of a bacterial parasite and the insecticide carbaryl to life-history and physiology of two Daphnia magna clones differing in carbaryl sensitivity. Aquatic Toxicology 130-131: 149-159.

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.

Full reference (link)

Moe SJ, De Schamphelaere K, Clements WH, Sorensen MT, Van den Brink PJ, Liess M. 2013. Combined and interactive effects of global climate change and toxicants on populations and communities. Environ Tox Chem 32(1): 49-61.

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 the 24 A degrees C+Cd treatment. Significant values of h(2) (= 0.23) and CVA (= 89.7 %) were only found in the 24 A degrees C+Cd treatment, suggesting that the ability to produce more offspring under this stressful condition may be inherited across sexual generations. In contrast, in the less stressful 20 A degrees C+Cd treatment the h(2) (0.06) and CVA (7.0 %) were very low and not significantly higher than zero. Collectively our data indicate that both the asexual and sexual reproduction phases in cyclic parthenogenetic D. magna populations may play a role in the long-term adaptive potential of Daphnia populations to chemical stress (with Cd as the current example) and that environmental variables which influence the stress level of that chemical may influence this adaptive potential (with temperature as current example).

Full reference (link)

Messiaen M, Janssen CR, Thas O, De Schamphelaere KAC. 2012. The potential for adaptation in a natural Daphnia magna population: broad and narrow-sense heritability of net reproductive rate under Cd stress at two temperatures. Ecotoxicol 21(7) : 1899-1910.

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, and Climate Change in Central Sweden. Environ. Sci. Technol. 46(16) : 9097-9105.

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.