Mitigating with macrophytes: Submersed plants reduce the toxicity of pesticide-contaminated water to zooplankton



In ecotoxicology, appreciation is growing for the influence that ecological interactions have on the toxicity of contaminants, such as insecticides, to sensitive species. Most previous studies, however, have focused on factors that exacerbate insecticide effects on species, while factors that may mitigate these effects have been relatively ignored. In aquatic habitats, a small number of studies have shown that submersed macrophytes can remove some insecticides from the water column via sorption. Although examining sorption dynamics is important for understanding the environmental fate of insecticides, whether and to what extent macrophytes actually mitigate insecticide effects on aquatic species remains unknown. In the present study, the authors examined how much and how quickly several realistic densities of the macrophyte Elodea canadensis decreased the toxicity of the insecticide malathion to Daphnia magna, a keystone aquatic herbivore. To do this, the authors quantified Daphnia survival in outdoor test systems (0.95 L) exposed to a factorial combination of five Elodea densities crossed with five malathion concentrations. The authors discovered that malathion's lethality to Daphnia decreased with increasing Elodea density. Furthermore, the rate at which Elodea reduced malathion's toxicity in the water column increased with macrophyte density. These results provide strong evidence that submersed macrophytes can mitigate the ecological impacts of a popular insecticide and further support that ecological interactions can strongly influence contaminant environmental effects. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2013;32:699–706. © 2012 SETAC