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Impacts of Contaminants on the Ecological Role of Lotic Biofilms


Biofilms play a fundamental ecological role in freshwater ecosystems as they contribute to ecosystem function(s) such as autotrophic primary production, organic matter decomposition and the bottom-up directed energy transfer in the food web. The present focused review summarizes the scientific knowledge on how the roles of autotrophic and heterotrophic biofilms can be modulated as a response to chemical (i.e., pesticide) stress. We discuss how horizontal effects (alterations in the structure of biofilms) can affect the physiological fitness and life history strategy of the next trophic level (vertical effects), namely primary consumers. Since the literature indicates that heterotrophic biofilms are currently at risk as a result of pesticide stress, the protectiveness of environmental risk assessment in Europe as well as North America is questioned. By briefly outlining substantial knowledge gaps, we provide ideas on how the identified uncertainties may be empirically addressed.

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The authors thank Willem Goedkoop, Jenny Kreuger and three anonymous reviewers for valuable comments that improved the quality of the manuscript. The Carl Tryggers foundation, Stockholm (Grant no: CTS 13:72), supported this project.

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Correspondence to Alexander Feckler.

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Feckler, A., Kahlert, M. & Bundschuh, M. Impacts of Contaminants on the Ecological Role of Lotic Biofilms. Bull Environ Contam Toxicol 95, 421–427 (2015).

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  • Trophic interaction
  • Ecosystem function
  • Indirect effects
  • Microbial community composition
  • Leaf litter breakdown