Acute Toxicity of Copper Sulfate and Potassium Dichromate on Stygobiont Proasellus: General Aspects of Groundwater Ecotoxicology and Future Perspectives


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April 2013


Karst systems harbor large groundwater resources for human consumption and represent an important habitat for rare and unprotected specialized animals, the so-called stygofauna. Due to the highly adapted features towards underground life, together with the geographic isolation provided by the subterranean aquifers, groundwater-dwelling animals may lose the ability to face sudden changes on their ecosystems, and therefore the risk of extinction is remarkably high. A little is known about their sensitiveness, especially linked to contamination pressure in urbanized karst areas. Understanding the impact of contaminants on stygofauna is important for setting groundwater environmental quality and management of karst systems. We have investigated acute toxicity responses in two endemic stygobiont species of the peri-Mediterranean genus Proasellus from two different karst areas and in freshwater standard species Daphnia magna exposed to two contaminants (copper sulfate; potassium dichromate). Groundwater from both sites was characterized in order to depict possible responses resulting from the long-term exposition of organisms to contaminants. Stygobiont Proasellus spp. were remarkably more tolerant than the epigean D. magna. The less groundwater-adapted revealed to be more tolerant to acute exposure to both toxics, suggesting that the degree of adaptation to groundwater life can influence the acute response of Proasellus spp. to pollutants, and that the tolerance to wide environmental conditions could be a key factor in groundwater colonization. This study highlights the worldwide need to use local specimens to infer the effects of pollution in their corresponding karst systems, which is important to define specific environmental quality thresholds for groundwater ecosystems that will certainly contribute for its protection.


Contamination, Acute Toxicity, Stygobiont, Proasellus, Karst, Portugal

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