Invertebrates as indicators for chemical stress in sewage-influenced stream systems: toxic and endocrine effects in gammarids and reactions at the community level in two tributaries of Lake Constance, Schussen and Argen.

Research paper by Katharina K Peschke, Jonas J Geburzi, Heinz-R HR Köhler, Karl K Wurm, Rita R Triebskorn

Indexed on: 20 May '14Published on: 20 May '14Published in: Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety


The present study investigates the impact of releases from waste water treatment plants and storm water overflow basins on gammarids and other macrozoobenthos. The study relates to a recent upgrading of a waste water treatment plant (Langwiese) at the Schussen river, an important tributary to Lake Constance. Samples were taken at different sites at the Schussen river upstream and downstream of a storm water overflow basin and the waste water treatment plant Langwiese and, in parallel, at the Argen river, a less polluted reference stream. We assessed the influence of water quality on the distribution of macrozoobenthos and on the health of gammarid populations by a variety of ecotoxicological methods including biomarkers prior to the expansion of the waste water treatment plant. Through histopathological studies, the impact of parasites on host tissue health was evaluated. Analyses of heat shock protein (hsp70) levels allowed us to draw conclusions about the proteotoxicity-related stress status of the organisms. Furthermore, gammarid populations from all sites were investigated in respect to sex ratio, parasitism rate, and fecundity. Macrozoobenthos community integrity was determined by means of the saprobic index and the abundance as well as by the number of taxa. In gammarids, the sex ratio was significantly shifted towards females, fecundity was significantly decreased, and the hsp70 level was significantly increased downstream of the waste water treatment plant Langwiese, compared to the upstream sampling site. Similarly, these effects could be detected downstream of three small storm water overflow basins. In the macrozoobenthos communities, the abundance of taxa, the number of taxa, the number of ephemeroptera, plecoptera, and trichoptera taxa (EPT-taxa), and the number of sensitive taxa decreased downstream of the storm water overflow basin Mariatal as well as downstream of the waste water treatment plant Langwiese. Our study showed, that waste water treatment plants and storm water overflow basins affected macroinvertebrate communities and the health of gammarids.