Get access

Using meiofauna to assess pollutants in freshwater sediments: A microcosm study with cadmium



The direct and indirect effects of Cd on benthic communities were assessed in a freshwater microcosm study over a period of seven months (218 d). Cadmium was regarded as a model substance to evaluate the usefulness of small-scale laboratory microcosm with microscopic fauna. In particular, effects on the meiofauna community, an ecologically important but rather neglected benthic component, were investigated. In addition, some microfaunal parameters (protozoan abundance and microbial activity) were determined. The sediment was spiked with nominal Cd concentrations of 10, 100, and 1,000 mg/kg dry weight. Because of the strong binding of Cd to sediment particles, measured Cd pore-water concentrations never exceeded 129.5 ± 40.7 µg/L. At 1,000 mg/kg dry weight, the abundances of the two dominant meiofauna taxa, nematodes and oligochaetes, were significantly reduced throughout the present study. Regarding nematodes, species of bacterivorous taxa (Daptonema, Eumonhystera) decreased, whereas species of predacious and omnivorous taxa (Mononchus, Dorylaimus, and Ironus) increased in dominance in microcosms of the highest Cd concentration. Transient effects on microfauna were observed, especially in the first half of the present study, with a reduction in microbial activity and protozoan abundance. However, in microcosms receiving the highest Cd concentration, the abundance of the flagellate Euglena mutabilis increased significantly toward the end of the present study. The results of the present study support the use of small-scale microcosms with natural meiofauna communities as a suitable tool to assess the impact of pollutants in freshwater sediments. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2011;30:427–438. © 2010 SETAC