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Use of diatom assemblages as biomonitor of the impact of treated uranium mining effluent discharge on a stream: case study of the Ritord watershed (Center-West France)

Ecotoxicology / Volume 22, Issue 8, pages 1186-1199, October 2013

Document type > *Article de revue

Keywords >

Research Unit > IRSN/PRP-ENV/SERIS/LECO

Authors > HERLORY Olivier, BONZOM Jean-Marc, GILBIN Rodolphe, FRELON Sandrine, FAYOLLE Corinne, DELMAS François, COSTE Michel

Publication Date > 01/10/2013

Summary

The rehabilitation of French former uranium mining sites has not prevented the contamination of the surrounding aquatic ecosystems with metal elements. This study assesses the impact of the discharge of treated uranium mining effluents on periphytic diatom communities to evaluate their potential of bioindication. A 7-month survey was conducted on the Ritord watercourse to measure the environmental conditions of microalgae, the non-taxonomic attributes of periphyton (photosynthesis and biomass) and to determine the specific composition of diatom assemblages grown on artificial substrates. The environmental conditions were altered by the mine waters, that contaminate the watercourse with uranium and with chemicals used in the pit-water treatment plants (BaCl2 and Al2(SO4)3). The biomass and photosynthetic activity of periphyton seemed not to respond to the stress induced by the treated mining effluents whereas the altered environmental conditions clearly impacted the composition of diatom communities. Downstream the discharges, the communities tended to be characterized by indicator species belonging to the genera Fragilaria, Eunotia and Brachysira and were highly similar to assemblages at acid mine drainage sites. The species Eunotia pectinalis var. undulata, Psammothidium rechtensis, Gomphonema lagenula and Pinnularia major were found to be sensitive to uranium effluents whereas Neidium alpinum and several species of Gomphonema tolerated this contamination. The relevance of diatoms as ecological indicator was illustrated through the changes in structure of communities induced by the discharge of uranium mining effluents and creates prospects for development of a bioindicator tool for this kind of impairment of water quality.

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