Nanoparticles in freshwater ecosystems

In this post, Mirco Bundschuh talks about their recently published paper “Effects of nanoparticles in fresh waters – risks, mechanisms and interactions”.

Electron microscopy picture of titanium dioxide nanoparticles

Electron microscopy picture of titanium dioxide nanoparticles

Assessing for the potential environmental risks of new chemicals, such as nanoparticles, is a challenging task. To uncover fundamental questions regarding the fate, exposure and toxic mode of action of new chemicals, standard test protocols are usually involved in the first stage. At the same time, these test systems are not reflecting the complexity of interactions potentially relevant at the level of whole ecosystems. Hence, it seems important to combine process-orientated experimental approaches under relatively well-controlled environmental conditions with biologically more complex micro- or mesocosm studies to accurately assess for potential effects of nanoparticles under field relevant conditions.

In this publication we highlight the recent advancements in the nanoparticle related ecotoxicological research, which help to understand the potential effects of environmental conditions (e.g. UV radiation, dissolved organic matter, chemical stressors) on the fate but also effects of nanoparticles. Moreover, we discuss some studies with higher ecological complexity that have lead to lower effect thresholds than standardised tests. Thus, future research should assess for nanoparticle-induced implications on the interactions among trophic levels, community composition and ecosystem as well as evolutionary processes. We finally highlight recent discoveries in ecotoxicology and ecology that suggest nanoparticle-induced consequences on evolutionary and ecosystem processes as well as their potential transfer across ecosystem boundaries.

All in all, this paper provides a comprehensive overview of factors controlling ecotoxicological effects of nanoparticles but also stresses the lack of data for most nanoparticles regarding their effects at higher levels of ecological complexity. Thereby, this document calls for the integration of ecological theory into ecotoxicological research.

The paper was authored Mirco Bundschuh, Frank Seitz, Ricki R. Rosenfeldt and Ralf Schulz. It is published in Freshwater Biology and can be accessed from the authors’ researchgate pages.RG

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