Indirect effects of silver nanoparticles in aquatic invertebrates

In this post, Mirco Bundschuh talks about a recently published open access paper entitled “Microbially-mediated indirect effects of silver nanoparticles on aquatic invertebrates”.

Asellus aquaticus (CC BY-SA 2.0 de, author: M.J.,

Recently, I have had the pleasure to collaborate with colleagues at Leiden University in the Netherlands on the question whether silver nanoparticles could impact invertebrate shredders through indirect pathways. In other words, nanoparticles may quickly adsorb onto organic matter (OM) potentially modifying OM-associated microbial communities. Since OM-feeding invertebrates often depend on microbial conditioning to enhance OM quality, adverse effects on OM-associated microbial communities could potentially affect invertebrate performances. Therefore, this study assessed the effect of environmentally relevant concentrations of the model emerging contaminant, silver nanoparticles (AgNPs), on OM-associated microorganisms and subsequent indirect effects on growth of the invertebrate Asellus aquaticus.

At low concentrations (0.8 µg/L), AgNPs inhibited activity and altered metabolic diversity of the OM-associated microbial community. This was observed to coincide with a negative effect on the growth of A. aquaticus due to antimicrobial properties. When A. aquaticus were offered sterile OM in the absence of AgNPs, invertebrate growth was observed to be strongly retarded, illustrating the importance of microorganisms in the diet of this aquatic invertebrate. This outcome thus hints that environmentally relevant concentrations of AgNPs can indirectly affect the growth of aquatic invertebrates by affecting OM-associated microbial communities, and hence that microorganisms are an essential link in understanding bottom-up directed effects of chemical stressors in food webs.

The paper was led by Yujia Zhai from Leiden University with support of Nadja Brun (now Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution), Mirco Bundschuh (University of Koblenz-Landau), Maarten Schrama, Elin Hin and Martina Bijver (all Leiden University), and Ellard Hunting (University of Bristol). It was published as open access in Aquatic Sciences.

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