Organic matter degradation and redistribution of sediment associated contaminants by benthic invertebrate activities

Tom V. van der Meer*, Piet F.M. Verdonschot, Lina Dokter, Samira Absalah, Michiel H.S. Kraak

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


The fate of sediment associated compounds is the combined result of chemical properties and biological activities. Yet, studies simultaneously addressing the effects of biota on the redistribution and bioaccumulation of contaminants are scarce. Our aim was therefore to assess the effect of benthic invertebrate activities on organic matter degradation and the redistribution of metals and Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) in contaminated sediment. To this end, we introduced egg ropes of the non-biting midge Chironomus riparius into wastewater treatment plant sludge and allowed these to either develop until fourth instar larvae or to fully complete their life cycle into terrestrial flying adults. Chironomid larvae enhanced sludge degradation, resulting in increased metal concentrations in the sludge and in a flux of metals into the overlying water. Moreover, they hampered PAH degradation in the sludge. Contaminant transport from aquatic to terrestrial ecosystems with emerging invertebrates as a vector is widely acknowledged, but here we showed that biomanipulation prevailed over bioaccumulation, since due to chironomid activity, the flux of metals from the sludge into the overlying water was larger than into chironomid biomass. It is therefore concluded that contaminant-macroinvertebrate interactions are bilateral relationships driven by the interplay between macroinvertebrate traits and contaminant properties.

Original languageEnglish
Article number119455
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2022


  • Chironomus riparius
  • Contaminant fate
  • Macroinvertebrate traits
  • Metals
  • PAHs
  • Wastewater treatment plant sludge


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