Integrating the fish embryo toxicity test as triad element for sediment toxicity assessment based on the Water Framework Directive approach

Research paper by Mariana Bartzke, Vera Delov, Petra Stahlschmidt-Allner, Bernhard Allner, Jörg Oehlmann

Indexed on: 21 Jan '10Published on: 21 Jan '10Published in: Journal of Soils and Sediments


The objective of this study was to complement analyses according to the European Union Water Framework Directive (WFD) with a sediment toxicity analysis as part of an integrated river assessment. To this end, Hessian water courses were analyzed using the sediment quality triad concept according to Chapman with chemical analyses, in situ effect evaluations, and ecotoxicological assessments. For the ecotoxicological assessment (fish embryo toxicity test with Danio rerio), a new evaluation scheme was developed, the fish teratogenicity index (FTI), that allows for a classification of sediments into ecological quality classes compliant to the WFD.Sediment and macrozoobenthos samples were taken from tributaries of the rivers Fulda and Lahn. Sediments were characterized regarding particle size, carbon, heavy metals, and polyaromatic hydrocarbon content. Macroinvertebrate samples were taken via multi-habitat sampling. The fish embryo toxicity test with D. rerio was conducted as a contact assay on the basis of DIN 38415-6.The integrated assessment indicated a significant influence of heavy metals and carbon content on macroinvertebrate communities. The bioaccessibility of sediment pollutants were clearly demonstrated by the FTI, which showed a wide range of adverse effects. A significant linear relationship between metals and the FTI was detected. However, there was no statistically significant evidence that macroinvertebrate communities were affected by the hydromorphological quality elements at the sampling sites.The new scheme for the assessment of fish embryo toxicity test was successfully applied. The results suggest that sediment compounds impact macroinvertebrate communities and early development of fish. It demonstrates that the quality of sediments should be evaluated on a routine basis as part of an integrated river assessment.