Sewage contamination under water scarcity effects on stream biota: biofilm, grazers, and their interaction

  • Ana Raquel CalapezEmail author
  • Carmen L. Elias
  • Salomé F. P. Almeida
  • António G. Brito
  • Maria João Feio
Research Article


One of the most common anthropogenic impacts on river ecosystems is the effluent discharge from wastewater treatment plants. The effects of this contamination on stream biota may be intensified in Mediterranean climate regions, which comprise a drought period that leads to flow reduction, and ultimately to stagnant pools. To assess individual and combined effects of flow stagnation and sewage contamination, biofilm and gastropod grazers were used in a 5-week experiment with artificial channels to test two flow velocity treatments (stagnant flow/basal flow) and two levels of organic contamination using artificial sewage (no sewage input/sewage input). Stressors’ effects were determined on biofilm total biomass and chlorophyll (Chl) content, on oxygen consumption and growth rate of the grazers (Theodoxus fluviatilis), and on the interaction grazer-biofilm given by grazer’s feeding activity (i.e., biofilm consumption rate). The single effect of sewage induced an increase in biofilm biomass and Chl-a content, simultaneously increasing both grazers’ oxygen consumption and their feeding activity. Diatoms showed a higher sensitivity to flow stagnation, resulting in a lower content of Chl-c. Combined stressors interacted antagonistically for biofilm total biomass, Chl-b contents, and grazers’s feeding rate. The effect of sewage increasing biofilm biomass and grazing activity was reduced by the presence of flow stagnation (antagonist factor). Our findings suggest that sewage contamination has a direct effect on the functional response of primary producers and an indirect effect on primary consumers, and this effect is influenced by water flow stagnation.


Organic load Nutrients Flow velocity Grazing Multiple stressors Primary productivity Chlorophyll, Mesocosms 



The authors are grateful to José António Santos for the assistance in the laboratory work during chlorophyll determination.

Funding information

This work was financially supported by the Foundation for Science and Technology (Portugal)—FCT, through the following: strategic projects UID/MAR/04292/2013 granted to MARE and UID/GEO/04035/2013 granted to GeoBioTec and grant from FLUVIO PhD program (PD/BD/52510/2014) attributed to Ana Raquel Calapez.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.LEAF - Linking Landscape, Environment, Agriculture and Food, School of AgricultureUniversity of LisbonLisbonPortugal
  2. 2.MARE - Marine and Environmental Sciences Centre, Faculty of Sciences and TechnologyUniversity of CoimbraCoimbraPortugal
  3. 3.Department of Biology and GeoBioTec – GeoBioSciences, GeoTechnologies and GeoEngineering Research CentreUniversity of AveiroAveiroPortugal

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