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Performance and sensitivity of rapid sublethal sediment toxicity tests with the amphipod Melita plumulosa and copepod Nitocra spinipes

Authors

  • Stuart L. Simpson,

    Corresponding author
    1. Centre for Environmental Contaminants Research, CSIRO Land and Water, Kirrawee, New South Wales, Australia
    • Centre for Environmental Contaminants Research, CSIRO Land and Water, Kirrawee, New South Wales, Australia.
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  • David A. Spadaro

    1. Centre for Environmental Contaminants Research, CSIRO Land and Water, Kirrawee, New South Wales, Australia
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Abstract

Sublethal whole-sediment toxicity tests are an important tool for assessing the potential effects of contaminated sediments. However, the longer duration required for evaluating potential chronic effects may increase endpoint variability and test costs compared to survival endpoints. In the present study we compare the performance and sensitivity to contaminants of 10-d sublethal sediment toxicity tests with the amphipod Melita plumulosa and harpacticoid copepod Nitocra spinipes. For both tests, sublethal effects were consistently observed when sediment contaminant concentrations exceeded sediment quality guideline (SQG) concentrations. The response of these bioassays in metal-contaminated sediments was shown to conform ideally with respect to the mean SQG quotient calculated on the basis of the Australian and New Zealand lower SQG trigger value, with toxicity being observed only in those sediments where the mean quotient exceeded one. Better predictions of nontoxicity were obtained when dilute acid-extractable rather than total metal concentrations were used. Using the upper SQG, toxicity frequently occurred at mean quotients below one. The effects were generally consistent with predictions from the acid-volatile sulfide and simultaneously extracted metal model. Effects on reproduction of M. plumulosa were detected for sediments that did not cause effects on survival and highlighted the environmental relevance and importance of using these sublethal endpoints. When using four replicates for M. plumulosa and five replicates for N. spinipes, the endpoint variability (standard error) was less than 10%. Variations in sediment particle size and organic carbon content did not affect endpoint variability. Both species are relatively easily cultured in the laboratory, and the estimated effort and cost of achieving the sublethal endpoints is 1.5 times that of the acute survival test endpoints. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2011;30:2326–2334. © 2011 SETAC

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