Uranium extraction has resulted in a remobilisation of this actinide into mine surrounding ecosystems. Uses of metal salts during mining site rehabilitation, and the natural presence of metals have increased the metal contamination in hydrosystems submitted to mine tailings.
In situ experiments were conducted in two former French uranium mining sites. Three-spined stickleback caging was used to determine the sublethal effects of this metal mixture on this freshwater fish, as well as its effects on fish susceptibility to a sudden biological stress.
This pollution, characterised by higher metal concentrations (especially for uranium), has led to an oxidative stress in sticklebacks visible through several biomarkers, and other effects dependent on the study site.
The polymetallic contamination has modified the stickleback responses to the biological stress, by preventing their phagocytic and antioxidant responses. This work has reinforced the interest of the caging technique during environmental studies and that of immunomarkers in a multi-biomarker approach.