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Metal exposure and biological responses in resident and transplanted blue mussels (Mytilus edulis) from the Scheldt estuary
Wepener, V.; Bervoets, L.; Mubiana, V.; Blust, R. (2008). Metal exposure and biological responses in resident and transplanted blue mussels (Mytilus edulis) from the Scheldt estuary. Mar. Pollut. Bull. 57(6-12): 624-631.
In: Marine Pollution Bulletin. Macmillan: London. ISSN 0025-326X; e-ISSN 1879-3363, more
Peer reviewed article  

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    Mytilus edulis Linnaeus, 1758 [WoRMS]
    Marine/Coastal; Brackish water
Author keywords
    Mytilus edulis; Scheldt estuary; Multiple biomarker responses; Metal exposure; Metal bioaccumulation; Multivariate analysis

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    The Western Scheldt river and estuary is known to be highly polluted as it receives industrial, agricultural and domestic effluents from one of the most populated and industrialised zones in Europe. Aquatic organisms are exposed to pollutants, specifically metals that are present in different environmental phases, e.g. dissolved, suspended material or sediment phases. The objective of this study was to study the relationship that exists between environmental metal levels, the degree of metal uptake by aquatic organisms with the concomitant biological responses. For this purpose the bivalve mollusk, Mytilus edulis, was selected as bioaccumulation indicator organism. Environmental (water and sediment) and mussel samples were collected during the late winter (March 2000) from sampling sites in the Scheldt estuary. Sites were selected to represent a salinity gradient from the mouth of the estuary to the furthest distribution area of mussels upstream in the system. Together with standard water quality parameters (e.g. salinity, dissolved oxygen, dissolved organic carbon, etc.) concentrations of twelve metals were analysed in the water (dissolved and suspended matter) and sediments. Levels of these metals were also measured in the soft tissue of M. edulis, together with concomitant biomarker responses in resident mussel populations at each site. The biomarkers that were included in this study were condition index, scope for growth, survival in air, cell membrane stability, DNA damage, and metallothioneins. Data were subjected to multivariate statistical analysis. The physico-chemical parameters and metals in the environmental samples clustered the sites to reflect the distribution based on the salinity gradient. Bioaccumulation results revealed increased metal uptake along a pollution gradient with the highest metal bioaccumulation occurring at the upstream most sites and therefore closest to the in the industrial activities. However, the biomarker responses clustered the sites in a manner that reflected the influence of combination of internal exposure (bioaccumulation) and external exposure (physico-chemical conditions). These differences in biomarker responses clearly demonstrated were attributed to abiotic factors other than metal pollution alone e.g. localized short-term increases in increased suspended sediment concentrations and decreased dissolved oxygen concentrations.

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