• Green algae;
  • Population model;
  • Risk assessment;
  • Flow-through system;
  • Time-variable exposure


A flow-through system was developed to investigate the effects of time-variable exposure of pesticides on algae. A recently developed algae population model was used for simulations supported and verified by laboratory experiments. Flow-through studies with Desmodesmus subspicatus and Pseudokirchneriella subcapitata under time-variable exposure to isoproturon were performed, in which the exposure patterns were based on the results of FOrum for Co-ordination of pesticide fate models and their USe (FOCUS) model calculations for typical exposure situations via runoff or drain flow. Different types of pulsed exposure events were realized, including a whole range of repeated pulsed and steep peaks as well as periods of constant exposure. Both species recovered quickly in terms of growth from short-term exposure and according to substance dissipation from the system. Even at a peak 10 times the maximum predicted environmental concentration of isoproturon, only transient effects occurred on algae populations. No modified sensitivity or reduced growth was observed after repeated exposure. Model predictions of algal growth in the flow-through tests agreed well with the experimental data. The experimental boundary conditions and the physiological properties of the algae were used as the only model input. No calibration or parameter fitting was necessary. The combination of the flow-through experiments with the algae population model was revealed to be a powerful tool for the assessment of pulsed exposure on algae. It allowed investigating the growth reduction and recovery potential of algae after complex exposure, which is not possible with standard laboratory experiments alone. The results of the combined approach confirm the beneficial use of population models as supporting tools in higher-tier risk assessments of pesticides. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2012;31:899–908. © 2012 SETAC