Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 25, Issue 12, pp 11409–11423 | Cite as

Assessment of atrazine toxicity to the estuarine phytoplankter, Dunaliella tertiolecta (Chlorophyta), under varying nutrient conditions

Research Article


Anthropogenic inputs of chemical environmental contaminants are frequently associated with developing harmful algal blooms, but little is known about how estuarine phytoplankton assemblages respond to multiple, co-occurring chemical stressors in chronically disturbed habitats. The goals of this research were to establish a robust protocol for testing the effects of atrazine on estuarine phytoplankton, and then to use that protocol to compare the effects of atrazine exposure with and without nutrient enrichment on a cosmopolitan estuarine/marine alga, Dunaliella tertiolecta (Chlorophyta). Atrazine sensitivity in nutrient-replete media (96-h growth inhibition \( \overline{x} \)) was 159.16 μg l−1, but sensitivity was influenced by exposure duration, and inhibitory effects of herbicide on algal growth decreased under imbalanced nutrient regimes and low nitrogen and phosphorus supplies. These findings advance knowledge about how nutrient regimes and herbicides interact to control estuarine phytoplankton population dynamics.


Atrazine Ecotoxicity Dunaliella Estuarine Modified algal bioassay Nitrogen Phosphorus Phytoplankton 



We thank Geoff Scott, Marie DeLorenzo, Stacy Nelson, Parke Rublee, and Tom Wentworth for their counsel. We also thank the NCSU CAAE staff and students for their many actions in helping to make this research possible. Funding support was provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration—National Ocean Service, the National Park Service, the North Carolina General Assembly, and the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology at North Carolina State University.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflicts of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Applied Aquatic Ecology, Department of Applied EcologyNorth Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA
  2. 2.Department of Applied EcologyNorth Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA

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