22 February 2013
OLYMPIA – The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) has selected 72 clean water projects to receive a share of approximately $162 million in loans and grants starting in the state’s next fiscal year beginning July 1, 2013.
The funding helps protect clean water, an irreplaceable asset and it provides jobs. State financial managers calculate that 11 jobs in Washington are created for every $1 million spent on construction and design funding. So this proposed round of funding would support approximately 1,782 jobs. Over half of these are likely to be local construction jobs. Read more »
17 February 2013
This article continues Droplets blogs dealing with unwanted chemicals and pharmaceuticals in our surface waters and water supplies:
Drugs used for anxiety in humans have been making freshwater fish more aggressive. But this is only the latest in a growing list of common drugs that are affecting our freshwater ecosystems.
Photo: Creative commons
An article in Science this week showed that a common anti-anxiety medication, which has been ending up in rivers from wastewater as patients on the medication pass it through their urine, is also affecting the mood of the European Perch (Perca fluviatilis), a species of freshwater water. Even tiny amounts of the drug has been found to make the timid fish more bold, anti-social and voracious, according to the recent study.
European Perch (Perca fluviatilis). Photo: Wikimedia commons
The drug in question is Oxazepam, part of the class of drugs known as benzodiazepines, which are the most commonly used anxiety drugs. It acts on neurons that suppress brain activity and relaxing the patients. But the drug seemed to have to opposite effect on Perch. It is thought that in the fish the drug acts to reduce the level of fear the fish experience. Michael Jonsson, co-author of the paper, explains that “if the fish were anxious to begin with, perhaps the drug reduces anxiety and allows the fish to become more active.” In the lab, that led to medicated fish from natural populations being more adventurous, tending to spend less time with their fellow fish, and eating more zooplankton.
Oxazepam is the latest in a growing list of drugs that are significantly altering fish behaviour and escaping into our waterways. A type of contraceptive pill, which contains the chemical 17-β-estradiol, and the widely used antidepressant Prozac (fluoxetine) have both been detected in rivers and have been shown to change to behaviour of the fathead minnow, a common freshwater fish species in the US. In another study it was discovered that Ibuprofen, one of the most commonly used anti-inflammatory drugs, caused a reduction in male zebrafishes’ libido.
This is a cause for concern because these drugs may have a negative impact upon freshwater ecosystems. For example, young perch eat zooplankton, which in turn feed on algae. If medicated perch have bigger appetites, that may potentially lead to algal blooms. However, Jonsson cautions that it is difficult to extrapolate from laboratory setting and make definitive claims about the effects in natural habitats.
Previously, it was thought that drug pollution in waterways was only of concern when the level of toxicity became lethal to freshwater species. But these studies are important because they highlight the significance of non-lethal effects of pollution from medication and how they may affect freshwater species and ecosystems.
Reference: Brodin, T., Fick, J., Jonsson, M. & Klaminder (2013), ‘Dilute Concentrations of a Psychiatric Drug Alter Behaviour of Fish from Natural Populations’, Science, vol. 339, pp. 814–815.
Article republished with the permission of the Biofresh blog.
7 February 2013
Chemical dosing of a lake using a helicopter (Photo: Bill Harding)
Most lake managers are aware of the importance of keeping in-lake phosphorus levels to the absolute minimum possible – and to ensure that this is managed at the source of the problem, not once the nutrient is already in the lake. Once in the lake, nutrient attenuation (unless the lake is quite small and shallow) is generally very difficult. Prevention is always better than ‘end of pipe’ cures – but this is a lesson that is not easily learnt in the field of lake management! Read more »
27 January 2013
Glyphosate-based herbicides are commonly used or overused – and have been contentious in the aquatic sciences for a long time. Their presence in surface waters has been linked to all sorts of evils, not least their being a potential source of phosphate for toxic cyanobacteria (Google this relationship if you are interested). Read more »
27 January 2013
Here’s a newcomer to Droplets CyanoAlert (and another indication of an early spring in the northern Hemisphere): An algal warning has been posted for Wilderness Lake (Maple Valley), southeast of Seattle in Washington. The children in that part of the world must be tough as (today) it’s 6 deg C out, yet the press report warns (correctly under ‘normal’ conditions) that children playing at the water’s edge, along with pets like dogs, are the most at risk. Glad my parents didn’t send me out to play at the edge of the lake during winter! Read more »
25 January 2013
Research from Greece, announced by the European Commission, has found worryingly high concentrations of endocrine disrupting compounds in marine sediments.
Reduction and prevention of chemical pollution and subsequent harm to marine ecosystems is a key aim of the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive #1. EDCs can enter the marine environment via sewage, industrial waste water or indirectly through watercourses. Once present in the ecosystem, EDCs often take a long time to decay and can cause feminisation, decreased fertility or reduced immune function in marine organisms. Read more »
16 January 2013
Yes, the “and” in the title is deliberate. The world is on the verge of a crisis that is endangering both human water security and freshwater biodiversity. That crisis is the rapid disappearance and degradation of one of the most endangered global habitats – freshwater ecosystems. Read more »
11 January 2013
Quite a few years ago I attended an ASLO meeting in Alberta, Canada, at a time when the next big thing in oil production was the extraction of oil from tar sands in the Athabasca region. The debate was a lot similar to that around the issue of fracking, denial on one side and lots of concern and worry about environmental impacts on the other. However, like the current E-tolling saga in South Africa – the debate will eventually die off and the mining or tolling will simply go ahead – i.e. Big Capital wears down the opposition over time and get their way in the end. Read more »
7 January 2013
During 2012 Droplets cautioned about the need to consider all the nasties that can get into raw potable water supplies from wastewater (sewage) discharges – a source of both human and industrial chemicals and pharmaceuticals. For some time, sci-fi and futuristic stories have made use of the theme of man-made organisms and drugs escaping from the laboratory into the environment. A report from China indicates that this has already happened (Environmental Science and Technology , reported in Nature 492).
Researchers have apparently found man-made genetic elements in microorganisms sampled from six rivers. This “lab waste” – which should only be disposed of under the most stringent and controlled conditions, can lead to increased resistance to antibiotics.
These days we read more and more about illegal dumping of medical waste and drug products – irresponsible disposal of genetic material takes this to another level. Read more »
5 January 2013
New research from members of the BioFresh team has found that amphibians are the best group of animals to act as ‘surrogates’ for freshwater conservation planning.
There is plenty of information out there about the patterns and predictors of biodiversity on land. But the picture gets a little murkier when we dive beneath the surface into freshwater ecosystems. While many freshwater species and ecosystems are among the most threatened in the world, global conservation priorities have, to a large extent, overlooked freshwater ecosystems. Yet without sufficient information, effective conservation planning and actions are made all that much more difficult.
That’s why BioFresh is so passionate about making as much information about freshwater ecosystems, and the creatures that live within them, as open and accessible to scientists, policy-makers and practitioners as possible. And new research from members of the BioFresh team has shed some light on the situation for freshwater ecosystems.
Their research, which appeared in the Journal of Animal Ecology in a paper titled ‘Global diversity patterns and cross-taxa convergence in freshwater ecosystems’, analysed for the first time the global distribution of five different freshwater animal groups or taxa across 819 river basins around the world. The taxa investigated were aquatic mammals, aquatic birds, freshwater fish, crayfish, and amphibians. The study looked at how environmental factors drive biodiversity patterns at the river basin level and tested the ‘convergence hypothesis’, which takes the view that the environment drives evolution in a predictable direction (i.e. the same causes should produce the same effects).
Golden Tree Frog. Photo: Creative Commons
The study found that species richness and endemism patterns are significantly correlated and that contemporary climate, history and area are the main factors in explaining species richness and endemism patterns for most of the taxa at the river basin scale. In addition, and importantly, the research also found that amphibians, and then freshwater fish, display the highest level of congruency with other groups (taxa) of animals.
BioFresh member and co-author of the study Thierry Oberdorff, explains just why the results have potentially important implications for global freshwater conservation planning: “as most of the examined taxa display convergent patterns, one taxon can be used to predict patterns for the others.” This is significant because by using one group of animals, such as amphibians, to base conservation planning around may be the best and most cost-effective means of protecting the largest number of species, and broader freshwater ecosystems, in the resource-constrained world of conservation. And, says Oberdorff, the research suggests that ”as amphibians and fishes display the highest levels of congruency with other taxa, these two taxa appear to be good ‘surrogate’ candidates for developing global freshwater conservation planning at the river drainage basin scale.” In addition, because amphibians are considered highly threatened and have previously been listed as potential surrogates in terrestrial ecosystems, the use of amphibians to represent spatial patterns of biodiversity may also help unify terrestrial and freshwater conservation efforts under a common framework.
You can read more about amphibians in our 6-part amphibian special feature.
The reference for the BioFresh paper is: Tisseuil C. et al. 2012, ‘Global diversity patterns and cross-taxa convergence in freshwater ecosystems’, Journal of Animal Ecology.
(BlogPost reproduced with the kind permission of BioFresh).