Esfenvalerate toxicity to the cladoceran Ceriodaphnia dubia in the presence of green algae, Pseudokirchneriella subcapitata
The presence of phytoplankton, like other particulate organic matter, can interfere with the effects of hydrophobic contaminants such as pyrethroid pesticides. However, the reduction or elimination of toxicity by algae added as food during testing is not taken into account in standard US EPA whole effluent toxicity (WET) zooplankton tests. On the other hand, WET test conditions may overestimate toxicity of such compounds in highly productive surface waters with high concentrations of detritus and other particulate matter. In addition, WET tests do not measure impaired swimming ability or predator avoidance behavior as an indicator of increased mortality risk. This study used a modified version of the US EPA WET Ceriodaphnia dubia acute test to investigate the effects of phytoplankton on toxicity of the pyrethroid insecticide, esfenvalerate. Animals were exposed simultaneously to different concentrations of esfenvalerate and green algae (Pseudokirchneriella subcapitata). Mortality and predation risk were recorded after 4 and 24 h. Algae at or below concentrations specified in the WET protocol significantly reduced mortality. Regardless, organisms exposed to esfenvalerate were unable to avoid simulated predation in the presence of algae at any concentration. After 12 h, esfenvalerate adsorbed to algae represented 68-99 % of the total amount recovered. The proportion of algae-bound insecticide increased with algal concentration indicating that conclusions drawn from toxicity tests in which algae are added as food must be interpreted with caution as the dissolved fraction of such hydrophobic contaminants is reduced. Additionally, our results strongly suggest that the EPA should consider adding ecologically-relevant endpoints such as swimming behavior to standard WET protocols.