Pesticide contamination and phytotoxicity of sediment interstitial water to tropical benthic microalgae

Marie E. Magnusson, Kirsten Ruth Heimann, Michael J. Ridd, Andrew Peter Negri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)


Many organic compounds including some herbicides concentrate in sediment, thus it may be expected that interstitial waters contain higher concentrations of these contaminants than the water column. To estimate benthic microalgal exposure to pesticides, sediment and interstitial water sampled in the dry season from four major rivers in north Queensland, Australia, were analysed for these contaminants. Interstitial water extracts from the sediments were tested for acute phytotoxicity to benthic microalgae using PAM fluorometry and the results were compared with chemical analyses of the same water samples. A range of pesticides were detected in both sediment and interstitial waters from all sites, notably the herbicide diuron at concentrations ranging from 0.3 to 11μgkg-1 dry weight sediment, and up to 68ngL-1 in interstitial waters. Herbicide concentrations estimated from partition coefficients and the sediment concentrations typically overestimated analytically determined concentrations present in interstitial water by an order of magnitude. The analytically determined herbicide concentrations in the interstitial water explained most of the phytotoxicity measured with the bioassay; however, photoinhibition was slightly higher than expected based on analytical results, indicating the presence of unidentified phytotoxins. These results demonstrate the presence of pesticides in interstitial waters in the Tropical dry season, sometimes at concentrations that may affect sensitive benthic organisms, and supports the use of the I-PAM bioassay as a valuable tool in exposure- and environmental risk- and impact-assessments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5211-5221
Number of pages11
JournalWater Research
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - 5 Sep 2013


  • Diuron
  • Herbicide
  • Microalga
  • Pesticide
  • Pore water
  • Sediment


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