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Extremely acidic environment: Biogeochemical effects on algal biofilms

Luís, Ana Teresa, Teixeira, Manuela, Durães, Nuno, Pinto, Raquel, Almeida, Salomé F.P., da Silva, Eduardo Ferreira, Figueira, Etelvina
Ecotoxicology and environmental safety 2019 v.177 pp. 124-132
Eunotia, Pinnularia, acid mine drainage, algae, aluminum, antioxidants, biodiversity, biofilm, biomass, biotransformation, catalase, copper, glutathione transferase, heavy metals, iron, lead, lentic systems, lipids, manganese, pH, photosynthesis, pigments, proteins, streams, superoxide dismutase, toxic substances, toxicity, zinc
The biological responses of acidobiontic species to extremely acidic waters, as those related with Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) processes, are relevant not only to understand the toxicological degree of the waters as well as the mechanisms responsible for the survival and adaptation of such organisms.Therefore, the objective of this study was to evaluate the effect of acidic pH and metals in biofilms collected in two sites a lentic permanent acid pond (AP) and a temporary acid stream (AS) affected by Acid Mine Drainage (AMD), and taking as control (C), an uncontaminated site with circumneutral pH. The results showed typical conditions of AMD-contaminated waters in sites AS and AP (pH < 3 and high concentrations of Al, Cu, Fe, Mn, Pb and Zn), which are responsible for a substantial decrease in biomass and biodiversity of biofilms (with a dominance of acidobiontic species, such as Pinnularia aljustrelica and Eunotia exigua, comparing to the control site. Also expressed by low values of photosynthetic pigments and reduced amount of proteins. In addition, such extreme acidic conditions also induced biofilms’ stress, increasing antioxidant [catalase (CAT), superoxide dismutase (SOD) and biotransformation glutathione S-transferases (GSTs)] enzymes activity and also membrane damage (peroxidized lipids). However, despite the quite similar physico-chemical conditions of both AMD-contaminated sites, differences in the toxicity status between them were indirectly detected through some of the biochemical parameters [GSTs, SOD and CAT], indicating site AS has the most toxic, which fact was attributed to the higher concentrations of Pb2+ in this water. This element is recognized to be highly toxic for biota, and in such acidic conditions remains in solution, easily available to the aquatic organisms. Since pH is similar in the acid sites, the different concentrations of heavy metals in the waters might be responsible for the observed changes in the biological community at these two sites.This fact was translated in a higher capacity of this site's biofilm to cope with the negative effects of the toxicants, evidenced in a higher positive correlation with GSTs, CAT and SOD when compared to biofilms of sites AP and C.