Effects of sediment-associated Cu on Tubifex tubifex – Insights gained by standard ecotoxicological and novel, but simple, bioturbation endpoints

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Sediments serve as both source and sink of contaminants (e.g., Cu) and biologically important materials (e.g., metals, nutrients). Bioturbation by benthic organisms is ecologically relevant as bioturbation affects the physio-chemical characteristics of sediments, thus altering nutrient and contaminant distribution and bioavailability. We examined the effects of sediment-associated Cu on T. tubifex with conventional toxicity endpoints, such as mortality and growth, and less commonly used non-destructive endpoints, such as bioturbation and feeding. An experimental approach was developed to examine the applicability of simple methods to detect effects on bioturbation and feeding. Two experiments were conducted with 7-day exposures to uncontaminated or Cu-spiked natural sediment at six Cu concentrations to examine Cu bioaccumulation and effects. Endpoints included worm mortality, feeding rate and growth (experiment A) and worm bioturbation (particle diffusion and maximum penetration depth, experiment B). A microparticle tracer was placed on the sediment surface and vertical particle transport was followed over time. Adverse effects were detected for all endpoints (bioturbation, feeding rate, growth and survival): a slight positive effect at the lowest Cu concentrations followed by adverse effects at higher concentrations indicating hormesis. These simple, non-destructive endpoints, provided valuable information and demonstrated that sediment-associated contaminants, such as Cu, can influence bioturbation activity, which in turn may affect the distribution of sediment-bound or particulate pollutants, such as the plastic microparticles studied here. Thus, we suggest to use simple endpoints, such as bioturbation and feeding rate, in ecotoxicity testing since these endpoint account for the influence of interactions between pollutants and benthos and, thus, increase ecological relevance.
Original languageEnglish
Article number115251
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
Issue number2
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020

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