The influence of natural dissolved organic matter on herbicide toxicity to marine microalgae is species-dependent

Microalgae, which are the foundation of aquatic food webs, may be the indirect target of herbicides used for agricultural and urban applications. Microalgae also interact with other compounds from their environment, such as natural dissolved organic matter (DOM), which can itself interact with herbicides. This study aimed to evaluate the influence of natural DOM on the toxicity of three herbicides (diuron, irgarol and S-metolachlor), singly and in ternary mixtures, to two marine microalgae, Chaetoceros calcitrans and Tetraselmis suecica, in monospecific, non-axenic cultures. Effects on growth, photosynthetic efficiency (Ф’M) and relative lipid content were evaluated. The chemical environment (herbicide and nutrient concentrations, dissolved organic carbon and DOM optical properties) was also monitored to assess any changes during the experiments.

The results show that, without DOM, the highest irgarol concentration (I0.5: 0.5 mg L−1) and the strongest mixture (M2: irgarol 0.5 μg L−1 + diuron 0.5 μg L−1 + S-metolachlor 5.0 μg L−1) significantly decreased all parameters for both species. Similar impacts were induced by I0.5 and M2 in C. calcitrans (around −56% for growth, −50% for relative lipid content and −28% for Ф’M), but a significantly higher toxicity of M2 was observed in T. suecica (−56% and −62% with I0.5 and M2 for growth, respectively), suggesting a possible interaction between molecules.

With DOM added to the culture media, a significant inhibition of these three parameters was also observed with I0.5 and M2 for both species. Furthermore, DOM modulated herbicide toxicity, which was decreased for C. calcitrans (−51% growth at I0.5 and M2) and increased for T. suecica (-64% and −75% growth at I0.5 and M2, respectively).

In addition to the direct and/or indirect (via their associated bacteria) use of molecules present in natural DOM, the characterization of the chemical environment showed that the toxic effects observed on microalgae were accompanied by modifications of DOM composition and the quantity of dissolved organic carbon excreted and/or secreted by microorganisms. This toxicity modulation in presence of DOM could be explained by (i) the modification of herbicide bioavailability, (ii) a difference in cell wall composition between the two species, and/or (iii) a higher detoxification capacity of C. calcitrans by the use of molecules contained in DOM. This study therefore demonstrated, for the first time, the major modulating role of natural DOM on the toxicity of herbicides to marine microalgae.


Microalgae, Herbicides, Natural dissolved organic matter, DOM, Toxicity, Interactions

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Coquille Nathalie, Menard Dominique, Rouxel Julien, Dupraz Valentin, Eon Melissa, Pardon Patrick, Budzinski Helene, Morin Soizic, Parlanti Edith, Stachowski-Haberkorn Sabine (2018). The influence of natural dissolved organic matter on herbicide toxicity to marine microalgae is species-dependent. Aquatic Toxicology. 198. 103-117.,

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