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Linking pesticide pollution with periphyton quality in agricultural streams: a fatty-acids approach

Conference paper
Authors Natàlia Corcoll
Andreas Håkansson
Anders K. Nilsson
Karin S L Johansson
Helena Spångfors
Maria Kahlert
Jenny Kreuger
Thomas Backhaus
Published in SETAC Europe 28th Annual Meeting 13−17 May 2018 | Rome, Italy. Abstract Book.
ISSN 2309-8031
Publication year 2018
Published at Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences
Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Department of Clinical Neuroscience
Language en
Keywords pesticides, periphyton, ecotoxicity, fatty acids
Subject categories Environmental chemistry, Ecology, Environmental Sciences


Although the environmental risks associated with pesticide pollution in agricultural streams are quite well documented, little is know about its potential effects on periphyton quality. Periphyton provides many of the essential polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) that are needed for organisms at higher trophic levels in river food webs. This study aims to assess the effects of pesticide mixtures on periphyton quality in situ. Three streams (Höje å, Skivarpsån and M42) located in the agriculturally dominated region of Skåne (SE Sweden) were sampled in September and October 2016. The effects of pesticide pollution were assessed by passive field sampling coupled with laboratory ecotoxicity tests, by mixture toxicity modelling to predict which chemical stressors were potentially driving the toxicity, and by examining the fatty acid profiles, pigment content and algal diversity of periphyton communities. Results from water chemical analyses clearly showed higher levels of nutrients and pesticide pollution in Skivarpsån and M42 than in Höje å. Ecotoxicity tests using the passive sampler extracts demonstrated that the pesticide mixtures ocurring at Skivarpsån and M42 were toxic for periphyton communities from Höje å, causing an inhibition of the photosynthetic activity up to 63% and 53%, respectively. Cluster and principal component analyses based on pigments content, algal diversity and fatty acid profiles, clearly separated the periphyton from the three river sites studied. Algal biomass from periphyton of pesticide polluted streams (Skivarpsån and M42) was higher than in Höje å. The nutritive quality of the periphyton differed among streams, and fatty acids considered high-quality such as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) were also more abundant in pesticide polluted streams (Skivarpsån and M42). Overal, even though results from the lab show that the mixture of pesticides pollution in the studied streams might be toxic for periphyton (i.e. inhibiting the photosynthetic activity), being herbicides the driving chemical stressors. Results from the field, indicate that when the levels of pesticide pollution are low and co-occur with high levels of nutrients pollution, nutrients migh mask pesticides effects on periphyton quantity and quality because compensatory effects from nutrients

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