Chemicals cross boundaries: New book highlights the water-land interface

In this post, Mirco Bundschuh and Ralf Schulz talk about a new book on contaminants and ecological interfaces, edited by Johanna M Kraus, David M Walters (both USGS) and Marc. A Mills (US EPA).

In times of an ever-increasing chemical burden on ecosystems, the number of chemicals that ultimately ends up in surface waters reaches new all-time highs. Many might be transported to the sea or stored in sediments, yet some of them may also cross the water-land interface back into terrestrial ecosystems, from where they often came initially.

The new book covers various aspects of this “chemical linkage” between aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. As the editors state in their introduction, the book explores “how the study of spatial subsidies can serve as a construct for bridging the fields of ecology and ecotoxicology with the goal of increasing understanding and improving decision-making regarding the ecological effects of contaminants in linked aquatic-terrestrial ecosystems”.

The story: what is this book about?

The book starts off in explaining how ecological subsidies drive exposure using the example of mercury or through outlining pathways of contaminant transport such as biologically- or flood-mediated pathways, as also studied in the Landau graduate teaching program SystemLink.

Schematic figure (developed from Soininen et al., 2015) illustrating how aquatic ecosystems act as source of contaminants for recipient terrestrial ecosystems functioning as sinks. Dotted lines indicate the fluxes from water to land (orange = biotic coupling via emergence; pink = abiotic coupling via floods), solid lines within ecosystem fluxes. The dashed arrows indicate exchanges with groundwater.

The book continues to explain how exposure drives ecological subsidies through the consideration of associations between aquatic insects and terrestrial spiders, the cross-ecosystem linkage for trace metals, or the role of insect metamorphosis in contaminant fate. Another section deals with resource subsidies and how they are affected by global change. A section on management applications and tools provides ample information on methods to study insect-mediated contaminant transport. Particularly microcosm and mesocosm studies are introduced in order to provide the reader with hands-on information for experimental work or management. A synthesis section opens the view on ecological networks and other frameworks for predicting the dark side of ecological subsidies.

This book is a must-read for those involved in research on aquatic-terrestrial linkages and how they may be affected by contaminants or to which extent contaminants are part of the transported matter. Although an impressive amount of research has accumulated in this rapidly rising research area, the book pinpoints many basic questions still in need to be addressed in order to tackle the issue of contaminants crossing ecosystem borders, which themselves may suddenly represent new stress factors. This leaves lots of room for researchers from the Landau graduate teaching program SystemLink, some of whom contributed to the book, to study aquatic-terrestrial ecosystem connections.

Book details

Kraus, J. M.; Walters, D. M.; Mills, M. A., Eds. (2020) Contaminants and Ecological Subsidies: The Land-Water Interface, Springer Nature Switzerland AG; 383 pages.

A link to the book can be found here.

Contributions from authors at the iES Landau and SystemLink

Bundschuh, M.; Zubrod, J. P.; Wieczorek, M.; Schulz, R. (2020) Studying effects of contaminants on aquatic-terrestrial subsidies: Experimental designs using outdoor and indoor mesocosms and microcosms. In Contaminants and Ecological Subsidies: The Land-Water Interface, Kraus, J. M.; Walters, D. M.; Mills, M. A., Eds. Springer Nature Switzerland AG; pp 279-296.

Schulz , R.; Bundschuh, M. (2020) Pathways of Contaminant Transport Across the Aquatic-Terrestrial Interface: Implications for Terrestrial Consumers, Ecosystems and Management. In Contaminants and Ecological Subsidies: The Land-Water Interface, Kraus, J. M.; Walters, D. M.; Mills, M. A., Eds. Springer Nature Switzerland AG; pp 35-57.