Aquatic toxicology (Amsterdam, Netherlands)

Does the effect of herbicide pulse exposure on aquatic plants depend on Kow or mode of action?

PMID 15670632


The highest concentrations of herbicides measured in flowing surface waters are often only present for short periods of time. These herbicide pulses can reach concentrations that would affect aquatic plants if present over a long time. The aim of this study was to assess the effect of a 3-h herbicide pulse relative to the effects of long-term (4 and 7 days) exposure of six herbicides with different sites of action and different K(ow) on the growth of the floating macrophyte Lemna minor. The herbicides were the two photosynthetic inhibitors: diquat and terbuthylazine, the inhibitors of acetolactate syntase (ALS), imazamox and metsulfuron-methyl and the microtubule assembly inhibitors propyzamide and pendimethalin. The log K(ow) ranged from -4.6 to 5.2. For imazamox, metsulfuron-methyl, propyzamide and pendimethalin a 3-h pulse induced the effect on area-specific growth as did a 4-day exposure at an approximate 10-fold higher concentration. For diquat and terbuthylazine a concentration closer to a factor of 100 or more was needed for a 3-h pulse to induce an effect similar to that of a 4-day exposure. For diquat, the low pulse-effect was most likely due to a slow uptake of the hydrophilic ion (log K(ow) = -4.6), as no effect was observed on chlorophyll fluorescence within 8 h after exposure. The chlorophyll fluorescence parameters are expected to respond quickly to a PSI inhibitor as diquat. For terbuthylazine, fluorescence measurements showed an effect on photosynthesis within 1h of exposure, and reached a minimum after 3 h. Recovery was fast, and initial fluorescence was restored within 24 h. Hence, the small pulse effect on area-specific growth was due to rapid recovery of photosynthesis. In contrast to terbuthylazine, the stop in area-specific growth observed for the ALS-and microtubule assembly inhibitors, took up to 4 days to recover from. Such a long recovery time after a pulse of only 3 h indicate that at realistic pulse exposures of up to a day or two, pulse-effects will approach the effects obtained in long-term studies. When investigating the effects of pulse exposures on aquatic plants, we should therefore focus more on non-photosynthetic inhibitors, which might not appear in pulses in as large concentrations as the PSII inhibitors investigated up till now, but whose effect, even in a shorter pulse, can be more damaging.

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