In this study, we analyzed the structure of the stygobiotic copepod assemblages of an unconsolidated European aquifer (VO), in southern Italy, that has been subject to persistent nitrate contamination for over 15 years. To this end, we monitored 25 bores where groundwater was contaminated only by nitrate, and no other chemical pollutants were reported as being above detection limits from 2009 to 2014. We monitored these bores three times, namely in autumn 2014 and in spring and autumn 2015. We expected that the chronic exposure to high nitrate concentrations had a significant and evident impact on the stygobiotic copepod assemblages. Unexpectedly, the assemblages were highly diversified. The stygobiotic species richness (SSR) accounted 17 species, a value that exceeded the European mean value (SSR = 12 species). However, the species density was only 0.6 species/km2, lower than the European mean value (= 1.6 species/km2). Moreover, the juvenile copepods were numerically less abundant than the adults and the biomass-abundance model showed signs of alteration of the structure of the copepod assemblages. This study highlighted that (i) nitrates, even at high concentrations, probably have a less severe impact on groundwater assemblages of unconsolidated aquifers than expected and (ii) the analysis of population traits and biomasses can detect signs of alteration of these assemblages that would, otherwise, not be visible from the analysis of the sole species richness and abundances.

The impact of nitrate on the groundwater assemblages of European unconsolidated aquifers is likely less severe than expected

Fiasca, Barbara;Galassi, Diana Maria Paola
2020

Abstract

In this study, we analyzed the structure of the stygobiotic copepod assemblages of an unconsolidated European aquifer (VO), in southern Italy, that has been subject to persistent nitrate contamination for over 15 years. To this end, we monitored 25 bores where groundwater was contaminated only by nitrate, and no other chemical pollutants were reported as being above detection limits from 2009 to 2014. We monitored these bores three times, namely in autumn 2014 and in spring and autumn 2015. We expected that the chronic exposure to high nitrate concentrations had a significant and evident impact on the stygobiotic copepod assemblages. Unexpectedly, the assemblages were highly diversified. The stygobiotic species richness (SSR) accounted 17 species, a value that exceeded the European mean value (SSR = 12 species). However, the species density was only 0.6 species/km2, lower than the European mean value (= 1.6 species/km2). Moreover, the juvenile copepods were numerically less abundant than the adults and the biomass-abundance model showed signs of alteration of the structure of the copepod assemblages. This study highlighted that (i) nitrates, even at high concentrations, probably have a less severe impact on groundwater assemblages of unconsolidated aquifers than expected and (ii) the analysis of population traits and biomasses can detect signs of alteration of these assemblages that would, otherwise, not be visible from the analysis of the sole species richness and abundances.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11697/150954
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