Silver Nanoparticle Effects on Stream Periphyton During Short-Term Exposures
Silver nanoparticles (AgNP) are increasingly used as antimicrobials in consumer products. Subsequently released into aquatic environments, they are likely to come in contact with microbial communities like periphyton, which plays a key role as a primary producer in stream ecosystems. At present, however, very little is known about the effects of nanoparticles on processes mediated by periphyton communities. We assessed the effects of citrate-coated silver nanoparticles and silver ions (dosed as AgNO3) on five functional end points reflecting community and ecosystem-level processes in periphyton: photosynthetic yield, respiration potential, and the activity of three extracellular enzymes. After 2 h of exposure in experimental microcosms, AgNP and AgNO3 inhibited respiration and photosynthesis of periphyton and the activities of two of the three extracellular enzymes. Addition of a chelating ligand that complexes free silver ions indicated that, in most cases, toxicity of AgNP suspensions was caused by Ag(I) dissolved from the particles. However, these suspensions inhibited one of the extracellular enzymes (leucine aminopeptidase), pointing to a specific nanoparticle effect independent of the dissolved Ag(I). Thus, our results show that both silver nanoparticles and silver ions have potential to disrupt basic metabolic functions and enzymatic resource acquisition of stream periphyton.