Groundwater is an indispensable resource for humankind and sustainable biomes functioning. Anthropogenic disturbance threatens groundwater ecosystems globally, but to which extent groundwater organisms respond to stressors remains poorly understood. Groundwater animals are rare, with small populations, difficult to find and to breed in the lab, which poses a main challenge to the assessment of their responses to pollutants. Despite the difficulties, assessing the toxicity of a large spectrum of stressors to groundwater organisms is a priority to inform towards appropriate environmental protection of these ecosystems. We tested the sensitivity to CuSO4, diclofenac, and NaCl of a groundwater population of the copepod Diacyclops crassicaudis crassicaudis and compared its sensitivity with the model organism Daphnia magna. We ranked its sensitivity using a species sensitivity distribution (SSD) approach using the feasible data available for groundwater and surface crustaceans. Our results show that the most toxic compound was CuSO4 for which higher amount of data was recorded and wider variability in response was observed. It was followed by diclofenac, largely lacking data for groundwater-adapted organisms, and the least toxic compound was NaCl. The differential sensitivity between D. crassicaudis and D. magna was contaminant-dependent. As a general trend D. crassicaudis was always distributed in the upper part of the SSD curves together with other groundwater-adapted organisms. Our results highlight that the widespread groundwater populations of the D. crassicaudis species complex, which can be successfully breed in the lab, may provide a reasonable approach to assess the ecological effects of anthropogenic stressors in groundwater ecosystems.
Reference: Castaño-Sánchez A., Pereira J.L., Gonçalves F. & Reboleira A.S.P.S. (2021). Sensitivity of a widespread groundwater copepod to different contaminants. Chemosphere. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chemosphere.2021.129911