Development and application of a multispecies toxicity test with tropical freshwater microalgae



Publication Details

Stone, S., Adams, M. S., Stauber, J. L., Jolley, D. F. & Warne, M. St J. (2019). Development and application of a multispecies toxicity test with tropical freshwater microalgae. Environmental Pollution, 250 97-106.


Microalgae are commonly used in ecotoxicity testing due to their ease of culturing and rapid cell division rates. These tests generally utilise a single species of algae; however, microalgae occur in the environment as complex communities of multiple species. To date, routine multispecies toxicity tests using tropical microalgae have not been available. This study investigated four tropical freshwater microalgal species for use in a chronic multispecies toxicity test based on the population growth (cell division) rate: Pediastrum duplex, Monoraphidium arcuatum, Nannochloropsis-like sp. and Chlorella sp. 12. Flow cytometric analysis identified the different fluorescence and light scattering properties of each algal species and quantified each species within multispecies mixtures. Following optimisation of test media nutrients and pH, a toxicity testing protocol was developed with P. duplex, M. arcuatum and Nannochloropsis-like sp. There were no significant differences in growth rates of each alga when tested over 72 h as single species or in multispecies mixtures. Atrazine and imazapic, two herbicides with different modes of action, were used to assess the sensitivity of the multispecies toxicity test. Atrazine was toxic to all species with 72-h IC10 values of 7.2, 63 and 280 μg/L for P. duplex, M. arcuatum and Nannochloropsis-like sp. respectively, while imazapic was not toxic to any species at concentrations up to 1100 μg/L. The toxicity of atrazine and imazapic to each microalgal species in the multispecies toxicity test was the same as that determined from single-species toxicity tests indicating that the presence of these microalgae in a mixture did not affect the toxicity of these two herbicides. This study is the first to develop a multispecies tropical microalgal toxicity test for application in freshwaters. This time- and cost-effective tool can be utilised to generate data to assist environmental decision making and to undertake risk assessments of contaminants in tropical freshwater environments.

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