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Oil water-soluble fractions (WSFs) compounds have low persistence in water; evaporating in a matter of hours to days. Nonetheless, they pose high toxicity to exposed biota. Their effects may be instantaneous or delayed, affecting, respectively, mainly survival vs growth and reproduction. We investigated the effects of crude oil WSFs on freshwater meiobenthos, with a focus on nematode assemblages, in community microcosm experiments lasting 15 weeks. Treatments consisted of the application of different concentrations of oil WSFs, i.e. high (100%) medium (50%) and low (10%), and effects were assessed one, three, nine and 15 weeks after contamination, allowing us to detect both short-term and lasting effects of oil-WSF. Additionally, we compared the effects of a single contamination event with those of a so-called 'constant' oil-WSF contamination where we replenished evaporated water with water containing the medium concentration of oil WSF. Next to nematodes, the most abundant meiofaunal taxa were rotifers, gastrotrichs, oligochaetes and tardigrades. Total abundance, different diversity indices, the composition of feeding-types and the age structure were investigated in the assessment of direct oil effects on the structure of nematode assemblages. Limited immediate effects were observed, except for a significant decrease of the index of taxonomic distinctness, which already appeared in the first week. Significant impacts on total nematode abundance, diversity and species composition only became apparent after 9-15 weeks of incubation, indicating that delayed effects of a single exposure are far more pronounced than instantaneous effects. Moreover, for most response variables, the strongest impacts were not observed in the highest-concentration treatment, but in a medium-concentration treatment with regular replenishment of oil WSF, suggesting that internal exposure may be important in generating effects. Furthermore, the predictability of the sensitivity of individual species was sometimes poor, which may not only result from these species' sensitivities, but also from alterations in interspecific interactions in polluted communities. Further toxicity tests should be carried out in order to unravel the main modes of action of crude oil WSF which lead to the observed long-term sublethal effects on nematode communities.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: Ecotoxicology and environmental safety
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