Addition of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) is a promising method to acutely suppress cyanobacterial blooms in lakes. However, a reliable H2O2 risk assessment to identify potential effects on non-target species is currently hampered by a lack of appropriate ecotoxicity data. The aim of the present study was therefore to quantify the responses of a wide diversity of freshwater phytoplankton, zooplankton and macroinvertebrates to H2O2 treatments of cyanobacterial blooms. To this end, we applied a multifaceted approach. First, we investigated the 24-h toxicity of H2O2 to three cyanobacteria (Planktothrix agardhii, Microcystis aeruginosa, Anabaena sp.) and 23 non-target species (six green algae, eight zooplankton and nine macroinvertebrate taxa), using EC50 values based on photosynthetic yield for phytoplankton and LC50 values based on mortality for the other organisms. The most sensitive species included all three cyanobacterial taxa, but also the rotifer Brachionus calyciflores and the cladocerans Ceriodaphnia dubia and Daphnia pulex. Next, the EC50 and LC50 values obtained from the laboratory toxicity tests were used to construct a species sensitivity distribution (SSD) for H2O2. Finally, the species predicted to be at risk by the SSD were compared with the responses of phytoplankton, zooplankton and macroinvertebrates to two whole-lake treatments with H2O2. The predictions of the laboratory-based SSD matched well with the responses of the different taxa to H2O2 in the lake. The first lake treatment, with a relatively low H2O2 concentration and short residence time, successfully suppressed cyanobacteria without major effects on non-target species. The second lake treatment had a higher H2O2 concentration with a longer residence time, which resulted in partial suppression of cyanobacteria, but also in a major collapse of rotifers and decreased abundance of small cladocerans. Our results thus revealed a trade-off between the successful suppression of cyanobacteria at the expense of adverse effects on part of the zooplankton community. This delicate balance strongly depends on the applied H2O2 dosage and may affect the decision whether to treat a lake or not.
We are most grateful to our late colleague Hans C.P. Matthijs for initiating this study. We thank Nikoletta Tsiarta and Sam Aakster for help with the toxicity tests, Geert Wijn and Jasper Arntz (ARCADIS Netherlands) for a specialized boat and dedicated crew for the lake treatments, and Johan Oosterbaan (Hoogheemraadschap Rijnland) for organizational support. We thank Merijn Schuurmans, Pieter Slot, Sinead Kinsella and Hongjie Qin (UvA) for technical assistance and help with the field work. D. pulex was kindly provided by the University of Ghent. We thank the anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments on the manuscript. This research was supported by the Dutch Research Council (NWO), grant number NWO 871 15020 and grant number NWO/TTW 14005.
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