• Ecotoxicology;
  • Marine sediment;
  • Metal contamination;
  • Principal component analysis


The present study assesses the sediment toxicity levels of three Spanish estuaries, as well as the suitability of two microorganisms, the benthic microalga Cylindrotheca closterium and the harpacticoid copepod Tisbe battagliai, as test organisms in whole-sediment toxicity assays. The sensitivity of both species to potentially polluted sediments was compared. Three sites at the southwest of the Iberian Peninsula were chosen: the Ría of Huelva, the Guadalquivir Estuary, and the Bay of Algeciras. Inhibition data were based on growth for C. closterium and fecundity for T. battagliai. No toxicity was recorded for the microalga in the Guadalquivir Estuary and the Bay of Algeciras. However, for T. battagliai, inhibition of fecundity was approximately 50% in those zones, indicating higher sensitivity. Samples from stations in the Ría of Huelva were the most toxic of all those assayed; inhibition values higher than 90% were obtained for both organisms. The highest values for total metal concentrations such as arsenic (As), cadmium (Cd), copper (Cu), iron (Fe), lead (Pb), tin (Sn), and zinc (Zn) were found in the Ría of Huelva, which can be classified as severely impacted. The Guadalquivir Estuary and the Bay of Algeciras can be considered moderately impacted. In general, both methodologies are suitable for application in ecotoxicological studies. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2010;29:393–400. © 2009 SETAC