Surfactants are man-made compounds that are meanwhile omnipresent in the environment, but environmental concentrations of surfactants are such that they are thought to have little risk for aquatic systems. The major anionic surfactants currently on the global market are linear alkylbenzene sulfonates (LAS), a class where the commercially available FFD-6 belongs to. The hypothesis was tested that sublethal effects of FFD-6, i.e. the morphological effect of colony formation in the common test alga Scenedesmus obliquus, occurs at a concentration lower than the no-observed-effect concentrations for endpoints commonly used in regulatory toxicity testing with algae. The surfactant FFD-6 induced colonies in Scenedesmus at concentrations a few orders of magnitude lower (i.e. between 0.001 and 0.01 g l-1) than at which growth inhibition was observed (i.e. between 1 and 10g l -1). Growth rates were lowest for Scenedesmus grown in P-limited medium, intermediate for algae reared in N-limited medium and highest for algae cultured in non-limited standard medium. Growth inhibition due to FFD-6 was similar for non-limited and nutrient-limited Scenedesmus, but colony formation was stronger in non-limited Scenedesmus than in nutrient limited cultures. The colony inducing effect of the surfactant FFD-6 on Scenedesmus occurs at much lower concentrations than growth inhibition and might affect species interactions, the survival of species and the energy flow along the food chain.
- linear alkylbenzene sulfonate
- alkyl benzene sulfonate
- anionic surfactants
- colony formation