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Research article2020Peer reviewedOpen access

Pesticide Mixtures Cause Short-Term, Reversible Effects on the Function of Autotrophic Periphyton Assemblages

Bighiu, Maria Alexandra; Gottschalk, Steffi; Arrhenius, Asa; Goedkoop, Willem


In a laboratory experiment we investigated the effects of pesticide mixtures on the structure and function of freshwater biofilms, with focus on their photoautotrophic component. We identified 6 herbicides and 1 fungicide commonly found in Swedish streams at relatively high concentrations and created 3 ternary mixtures that were tested in concentration series ranging from observed environmental concentrations to up to 100 times higher. Biofilms were exposed to these pesticide mixtures for 8 d and then allowed to recover for another 12 d. Our results show a rapid and consistent inhibition of photosynthesis after just 24-h exposure to the highest test concentration of pesticides, as well as in some treatments with lower concentrations (i.e., 10 times the environmental level), on exposure. Interestingly, the observed effects were reversible because biofilm photosynthesis recovered rapidly and completely in clean media in all but one treatment. In contrast to the functional response, no effects were observed on the algal assemblage structure, as assessed by diagnostic pigments. We conclude that the pesticide mixtures induce a rapid but reversible inhibition of photosynthesis, without short-term effects on biofilm structure. Environ Toxicol Chem 2020;00:1-8. (c) 2020 The Authors. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of SETAC.


Pesticides; Mixture toxicology; Algae; Biofilm; Pigments; Photosystem II

Published in

Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry
2020, Volume: 39, number: 7, pages: 1367-1374
Publisher: WILEY