Multiple stressor scenarios, as they are relevant in many watersheds, call for approaches extending beyond conventional chemical-focused approaches. The present study, investigated the fish population, represented by chub (Leuciscus cephalus), in the Bílina River (Czech Republic), which is impacted by various pollution sources and might pose a risk on the fish population. To confirm or reject this hypothesis it was examined whether there exists an association between abundance of chub and exposure to toxic chemicals as well as natural stressors, represented by parasites, and whether health-related suborganismal traits, namely, organ indices, tissue histopathology, and immune parameters, would help in revealing relationships between stressor impact and population status. Toxic pressure was assessed by the toxic unit approach, which gives an integrative estimate of toxic effect concentrations and by measuring the biomarkers cytochrome P4501A and vitellogenin, which indicate exposure to bioavailable arylhydrocarbon- or estrogen receptor ligands. Parasite pressure was estimated by determining abundance and species composition of ecto- and endoparasites of chub. Chub abundance was high upstream in the Bílina, low to zero in the middle stretches, and increased again downstream. Toxic pressure increased in the downstream direction, while parasite intensity decreased in this direction. Health status of chub did not differ clearly between up-, middle-, and downstream sites. Thus, it appears that neither toxic pressure nor parasite pressure nor their combination translates into a change of chub health status. By using varied assessment tools, this study provides evidence against a presumed causative role of toxicants impairing the fish ecological status of the Bílina River. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2010;29:453–466. © 2009 SETAC
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