New Publications

In the present study, we aimed to test the protectiveness of the bioavailability-normalisation procedure, with its associated hazardous concentrations for x% of the species (HCx), that is currently implemented to derive environmental threshold concentrations for Ni in European environmental legislative frameworks. We exposed a natural plankton-dominated community to three constant Ni concentrations during a 56d-microcosm experiment under high DOC conditions. The effects of the bioavailability-normalised HC5 and HC50 were evaluated at the level of the community structure, community functioning  and individual species abundances.
In this research we investigated whether or not marine algae growth was affected when exposed to environmentally realistic mixtures of chemicals collected from the Belgian part of the North Sea (BPNS). To explore this, we used a specific sampling technique that “filters” chemicals from the seawater and collects them in a way allowing to transfer these mixtures from the field to the laboratory. Once brought to the lab, we determined the concentration levels of 88 personal care products, pesticides and pharmaceuticals. Next, we exposed marine algae to the so collected mixtures of chemicals and recorded the algae’s growth over three days. We surprisingly observed growth stimulation for those mixtures with less sample handling and short storage while those undergoing repeated handling and longer storage showed no effects. In an explorative try to define the differences in the mixture composition of the effect- and no-effect causing samples, we were indeed able to define these differences but our findings could not be linked to the biological effects observed. In conclusion, we have shown that environmentally realistic mixtures of contaminants collected in the BPNS can enhance the growth of a marine algae species but it remains challenging to define those substances within these mixtures that actually cause effects on algae growth.

Recent studies have shown that toxicity of metals to Daphnia magna depends on the temperature. In a population experiment, we investigated if the effect of temperature on nickel (Ni) sensitivity observed on the apical level can be extrapolated to the population level. However, we observed no consistent population-level effects of Ni at concentrations that significantly affected reproduction. An individual-based model (IBM) with the dynamic energy budget (DEB) theory for Daphnia magna was calibrated based on Ni toxicity data at three temperatures (15, 20 and 25°C). Using the model, we confirmed the unexpected absence of Ni effects at the population level. 

Over the past decade, significant advances have been made to unravel molecular mechanisms of stress response in different ecotoxicological model species. Within this study, we focus on population level transcriptomic responses of a natural population of Daphnia magna to heavy metals. We aim to characterize the population level transcriptomic responses, which include standing genetic variation, and improve our understanding on how populations respond to environmental stress at a molecular level.

In this study, we assess the relationship between beta-diversity (measured as Bray–Curtis dissimilarity) and regional productivity (measured as biovolume) under various levels of a stressor flux in meta-ecosystems that were composed of two marine micro-algae communities. We created heterogeneity by exposing one of the two communities to a herbicide and manipulated regional diversity by applying a dispersal gradient, which decreased beta-diversity.
This study recorded temporal and spatial patterns of the FA profiles of two dominant calanoid copepods within the BPNS: Temora longicornis (Müller, 1785) and Acartia clausi (Giesbrecht, 1889). By means of distance-based linear modelling and by applying multi model inference to generalized additive models, environmental stressors were linked to patterns of the FA profiles of these species.

 

Sea spray aerosols (SSAs) have profound effects on our climate and ecosystems. They also contain microbiota and biogenic molecules which could affect human health. Yet the exposure and effects of SSAs on human health remain poorly studied. Here, we exposed human lung cancer cells to extracts of a natural sea spray aerosol collected at the seashore in Belgium, a laboratory-generated SSA, the marine algal toxin homoyessotoxin and a chemical inhibitor of the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway. 

In this study we developed a novel, mechanistic model where we predict effects of Cu on aquatic invertebrate populations (Lymnaea stagnalis – the great pond snail). Lymnaea stagnalis is particularly sensitive species to various metals 
and the precise mechanism for metal toxicity for this species are not fully understood. In this research, we extrapolated Cu toxicity effects from various studies and food sources to the population level. To improve inter-study comparability, we used a biotic ligand model to correct for the water chemistry. At the population level, the range in EC10 decreased significantly compared at the individual level. This model is the first developed at Arche Consulting and the University of Ghent where we promote the use of ecological models for the risk assessment of chemicals.

Over the past decades, the world's oceans and seas have been influenced by several human induced impacts, including climate change. Understanding the impacts of this changing environmental condition in zooplankton communities is crucial, as alterations in the zooplankton communities can affect entire marine ecosystems. Here, we focus on the potential effects of an increase in temperature on the calanoid copepod species, Temora longicornis, the dominant zooplankton species of the southern part of the North Sea. We sequenced the transcriptome (using RNA-seq technology) in T. longicornis, after being exposed to thermal stress, to investigate gene expression differences as a response to temperature fluctuations. 

Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) have key biological roles in fish cells. We recently showed that the phospholipid composition of rainbow trout liver cells (RTL-W1 cell line) modulates their tolerance to an acute cadmium (Cd) challenge. Here, we investigated (i) the extent to which PUFAs and Cd impact fatty acid homeostasis and metabolism in these cells and (ii) possible mechanisms by which specific PUFAs may confer cytoprotection against Cd. 

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