Development of a sediment toxicity test for the South African coastal environment using the endemic amphipod, Grandidierella lignorum Barnard 1935 (Amphipoda: Aoridae).
Masikane, Ntuthuko Fortune.
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Contaminants introduced in solution to coastal waters eventually accumulate in sediment. Pollution by these contaminants is only evident when biological effects occur. Geochemical procedures lack the ability to identify biological effects of pollution. Biological methods (i.e. community structure analyses and/or bioassays) are currently the best available techniques for pollution assessment. Standardised and locally relevant protocols for pollution assessment are lacking in many developing countries, including South Africa. This study aims to develop a sediment toxicity testing protocol using an amphipod species endemic to South Africa, Grandidierella lignorum. Initial research focussed on establishing ranges of physico-chemical parameters (i.e. salinity, temperature, sediment grain size and organic matter content) within which sediment toxicity tests should be performed. The sensitivity of the amphipod was then determined by exposing the amphipod to cadmium, copper and zinc at various salinities. Lastly, the amphipod was exposed to effluents (to test the amphipod’s sensitivity in water only tests) and whole sediment (to tests the amphipod’s sensitivity to solid phase material). G. lignorum tolerates salinities between 0 and 56, but prefers salinities between 7 and 42. Preferred salinity range is modified by temperature, with salinity of 42 becoming less tolerable. Salinities between 7 and 35 are most preferred at 10-25°C. G. lignorum prefers fine- (27.48±12.13%), medium- (25.11±12.99%) and coarse-grained sand (21.45±8.02%). Sediment with low (≤2%) organic matter content is most preferable, regardless of sediment grain size or type of organic matter (protein-rich vs. carbohydrate-rich). Cadmium toxicity decreased with increasing salinity (LC₅₀: 0.34 ± 0.17 mg l⁻¹ (salinity of 7), 0.73 ± 0.05 mg l⁻¹ (salinity of 21) and 1.08 ± 0.49 mg l⁻¹ (salinity of 35)). Zinc toxicity increased with decreasing salinity (1.56 ± 0.33 mg l⁻¹ at a salinity of 21 to 0.99 ± 0.13 mg l⁻¹ at a salinity of 7) and with increasing salinity (from salinity of 21 to 0.82 ± 0.19 mg l⁻¹ at a salinity of 35). Copper toxicity did not differ significantly with salinity and ranged between 0.72 ± 0.18 mg l⁻¹ (salinity of 35) and 0.89 ± 0.24 mg l⁻¹ (salinity of 21). Toxicity testing using Grandidierella lignorum should be performed in coarse- to fine-grained sediment at salinities of 7 - 35, at 10 – 25°C. Amphipods do not need to be fed during toxicity testing. A control chart using cadmium as a reference toxicant was established to determine the acceptability of toxicity results. Toxicity test results should be accepted when cadmium toxicity falls between 0.49 and 4.02 mg l⁻¹. The amphipod responded consistently to effluents and was able to discriminate polluted and unpolluted sediment in Durban Bay. Recommendations for refining the effluent and sediment toxicity test are suggested.