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Mixture toxicity from photosystem II inhibitors on microalgal community succession is predictable by concentration addition



The typical pollution situation involves chemical mixtures, and assessing the risks of single chemicals one at a time is not sufficient. Concentration addition (CA) has been suggested as a predictive tool in mixture ecotoxicology. The accuracy of CA for mixtures of similarly acting chemicals has been demonstrated under relatively simple biological conditions in single-species tests. To consider the high diversity of interconnected species in ecosystems, one must evaluate CA on a community level of biological organization. We sampled marine periphyton communities from the west coast of Sweden and exposed them to photosystem II (PSII) inhibiting herbicides for 4 d in the SWIFT test, a semistatic, small-scale laboratory test. During this time, the communities went through an ecological succession, influenced by the toxicants in a concentration-dependent manner. Multidimensional scaling was used to assess similarities in the effects of two different sets of PSII inhibitors on pigment profiles, which reflects the taxonomic structure and the physiological status of the microalgal community. One mixture of structurally congeneric phenylureas and one mixture of non-congeneric PSII inhibitors were tested. All PSII inhibitors and their mixtures caused similar changes in the pigment profiles, demonstrating that they not only have a similar biochemical mechanism of action but also are similarly acting on a community level. Concentration addition accurately predicted the effects of both mixtures over the entire effect range. This demonstrates that chemical congenericity is not required for a high predictive power of CA. Instead, in perfect analogy to the situation in single-species tests, a similar mode of action is a sufficient prerequisite for a successful application of CA. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2010;29:2806–2813. © 2010 SETAC