Macroinvertebrate interactions stimulate decomposition in WWTP effluent-impacted aquatic ecosystems

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Abstract

Aquatic ecosystems worldwide are impacted by an influx of nutrients and sludge particles from wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) effluents, leading to a degradation of benthic habitats and a loss of associated macroinvertebrate taxa. Hence, in habitats impacted by WWTPs, only a few tolerant macroinvertebrate taxa remain. These tolerant detritivore macroinvertebrate taxa play an important role in the degradation of organic matter, and biotic interactions between these taxa may either enhance or reduce the rate of sludge degradation. Therefore, the aim of the present study was to examine if the interaction between asellids and tubificids, both highly abundant in systems impacted by WWTP effluent, enhances the degradation of sludge. To this end, growth and reproduction of both taxa, sludge degradation and nutrient concentrations in the overlying water were measured in a 28-day laboratory experiment, subjecting WWTP sludge to 4 treatments: a control without macroinvertebrates, a tubificid, an asellid, and an asellid + tubificid treatment. Sludge degradation, phosphate concentration in the overlying water and asellid reproduction were enhanced when asellids and tubificids were jointly present, whereas tubificid growth and reproduction were hampered in comparison to the tubificid treatment. Hence, our results suggest that the biotic interactions between these tolerant detritivores stimulate sludge degradation, and thus possibly mitigating the negative impacts of WWTP-derived sludge particles on the benthic environment.

Original languageEnglish
Article number65
JournalAquatic Sciences
Volume83
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 9 Aug 2021

Keywords

  • Asellus aquaticus
  • Biotic interactions
  • Ecosystem function
  • OM degradation
  • Tubificinae
  • Wastewater treatment plant

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