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Enhanced co-tolerance and co-sensitivity from long-term metal exposures of heterotrophic and autotrophic components of fluvial biofilms

Published: 15 September 2011

Abstract: Understanding the interactive effects of multiple stressors on ecosystems has started to become a major concern. The aim of our study was therefore to evaluate the consequences of a long-term exposure to environmental concentrations of Cu, Zn and As on the pollution-induced community tolerance (PICT) of lotic biofilm communities in artificial indoor channels. Moreover, the specificity of the PICT was assessed by evaluating the positive and negative co-tolerance between these metals. Photosynthetic efficiency and substrate-induced respiration (SIR), targeting the autotrophic and heterotrophic communities respectively were used in short-term inhibition bioassays with Cu, Zn and As to assess sensitivities of pre-exposed biofilms to the metals tested. Diversity profiles of a phototrophic, eukaryotic and prokaryotic community in biofilms following the different treatments were determined and analyzed with principal component analysis. The results demonstrated that pre-exposure to metals induced structural shifts in the community and led to tolerance enhancements in the phototrophic and heterotrophic communities. On the other hand, whatever the functional parameter used (i.e. photosynthesis and SIR), communities exposed to Cu were more tolerant to Zn and vice versa. Furthermore, only phototrophic communities pre-exposed to As developed tolerance to Cu but not to Zn, whereas no co-tolerance between Cu and As was observed in the heterotrophic communities. Finally, phototrophic and heterotrophic communities exposed to Cu and Zn became more sensitive to As, reflecting a negative co-tolerance between these metals. Overall, our findings support the fact that although the mode of action of the different metals is an important driver for the structure and thus the tolerance of the communities, it appears that the detoxification modes are the most important factors for the occurrence of positive or negative co-tolerance.
Keywords: Co-tolerance / Ecological cost / River biofilm / Metal toxicity

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