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Effect of varying physicochemistry of European surface waters on the copper toxicity to the green alga Pseudokirchneriella subcapitata
Heijerick, D.G.; Bossuyt, B.T.A.; De Schamphelaere, K.A.C.; Indeherberg, M.B.M.; Mingazzini, M.; Janssen, C.R. (2005). Effect of varying physicochemistry of European surface waters on the copper toxicity to the green alga Pseudokirchneriella subcapitata. Ecotoxicology 14(6): 661-670.
In: Ecotoxicology. Chapman & Hall: London. ISSN 0963-9292; e-ISSN 1573-3017, more
Peer reviewed article  

Available in  Authors 

    Chemical elements > Metals > Transition elements > Heavy metals > Copper
    Water > Surface water
    Algae; Animalia [WoRMS]
    ANE, Europe [Marine Regions]
    Fresh water

Authors  Top 
  • Heijerick, D.G., more
  • Bossuyt, B.T.A., more
  • De Schamphelaere, K.A.C., more
  • Indeherberg, M.B.M.
  • Mingazzini, M.
  • Janssen, C.R., more

    Most standard toxicity test results, used in present environmental risk assessment and water quality criteria (WQC) setting procedures are obtained with standard test media that are not representative for natural surface waters when metal toxicity modifying factors like pH, water hardness and dissolved organic carbon (DOC) are considered. The aim of this study was, using the green alga Pseudokirchneriella subcapitata, (1) to investigate the individual effects of Ca, Mg (the hardness cations) and pH on the toxicity of copper in reconstituted artificial test waters and (2) to study the copper toxicity in 13 spiked surface waters originating from different European eco-regions. Surface waters were selected such that a broad range of DOC (1.55-20.4 mg/l), pH (5.52-8.30) and water hardness (7-238 mg CaCO3/l) was covered. Tests in reconstituted artificial waters demonstrated that the 72 h-EbC50 (expressed as dissolved Cu) increased by about a factor of 3 when the Ca and Mg concentrations increased from 0.25 to 2.5 mM. When pH was increased from 5.8 to 8.0, dissolved 72 h-EbC50 decreased by a factor of 3. It is suggested that competition between Cu2+, Ca2+, Mg2+ and H+ ions at the cell surface are the most likely explanation for these observations. Dissolved 72 h-EbC50s in the natural surface waters varied between 32.0 and 245 μg Cu/l and were up to a factor 15 higher than the 72 h-EbC50 in standard artificial medium (16.5±4.8 μg Cu/l). Consequently, Water Effect Ratio’s (WER, the ratio between the EC50 in natural water to the EC50 in standard test water) ranged from 1.9 to 14.8. Linear regression analysis revealed that higher EbC50 were significantly related to higher DOC-concentration of the natural waters (R 2 = 0.69), but that water hardness and pH did not show a significant relation with copper toxicity in these surface waters. In European surface waters, a positive correlation is observed between water hardness and pH. As a result, hardness and pH effects on copper toxicity are counteractive in European surface waters, resulting in the highly significant relation between the 72 h-EbC50 and DOC-concentration. Normalisation of the obtained effect concentrations using a Biotic Ligand based predictive Cu-toxicity model revealed that variation in DOC and pH are mainly responsible for the observed differences of Cu-toxicity in natural waters.

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