Sediment contact tests as a tool for the assessment of sediment quality in German waters



A sediment contact test (SCT) battery consisting of five ecotoxicological test systems was applied to 21 native freshwater sediments characterized by a broad variety of geochemical properties and anthropogenic contamination. Higher plants (Myriophyllum aquaticum), nematodes (Caenorhabditis elegans), oligochaetes (Lumbriculus variegatus), zebrafish embryos (Danio rerio), and bacteria (Arthrobacter globiformis), representing various trophic levels and exposure pathways, were used as test organisms. The test battery detected sediment toxicity caused by anthropogenic pollution, whereas the various tests provided site-specific, nonredundant information to the overall toxicity assessment. Based on the toxicity pattern derived from the test battery, the sediments were classified according to a newly proposed classification system for sediment toxicity assessment. The SCT-derived classification generally agreed well with the application of consensus-based sediment quality guidelines (SQGs), especially with regard to sediments with high toxic potential. For sediments with low to medium toxic potential, the SQGs often underestimated the toxicity that was detected by the SCTs, underpinning the need for toxicity tests in sediment quality assessment. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2013;32:144–155. © 2012 SETAC