Development of bioassay approaches to evaluate the impacts of pollution on New Zealand estuaries using the marine copepod Quinquelaophonte sp.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
Worldwide, estuaries are under increasing pressure from numerous contaminants. There is a need to develop reliable bioassay methodologies to assess the effects of these stressors on estuary health. This thesis aimed to develop and validate toxicity tests in a New Zealand marine harpacticoid copepod species for use in monitoring and evaluating the effects of estuarine pollution. A survey and toxicological assessment of a range of native copepod species resulted in the selection of Quinquelaophonte sp. as the ideal bioassay species. This selection was based on a broad regional distribution, ease of culture and high reproductive rate in the laboratory, sexual dimorphism, and sensitivity to contaminants. To validate the bioassay, spiked sediments were used to expose Quinquelaophonte sp. to three reference compounds representing important categories of estuarine chemical stressors: zinc (a metal), atrazine (a pesticide), and phenanthrene (a polyaromatic hydrocarbon). A method for spiking sediments that Quinquelaophonte sp. inhabit was developed to ensure even contaminant distribution in sediments. Two sediment bioassays using lethal and sublethal endpoints were validated, one acute (96 h) and one chronic (14 d). These assays incorporated both lethal and sublethal endpoints, which included reproductive output and mobility. Acute-to-chronic ratios were calculated for use in environmental risk assessment and to provide insight into the mode of action of the reference contaminants. The chronic sediment bioassay was used to assess sediment quality in three estuaries across New Zealand: Napier, Christchurch and Invercargill. This validated the bioassay for use with naturally-contaminated field sediments with varying mixtures of pollutants and sediment types (coarse sandy to fine silty organic rich sediments). Quinquelaophonte sp. was also tested to assess whether it can be used to characterise multi–generation impacts. After four generations of exposure to zinc, there were changes in acute sensitivity, indicating this species possesses mechanisms for acclimating or adapting to toxic stressors. Sediment bioassays in Quinquelaophonte sp. were successfully developed and validated, offering significant promise as a tool for monitoring effects of pollution in New Zealand estuaries.