Screening of NaCl salinity sensitivity across eight species of subterranean amphipod genus Niphargus

Jemec Kokalj A, Fišer Ž, Dolar A., Novak S, Drobne D, Bračko G, Fišer C
[ site ] Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety, 2022

Secondary salinization of freshwater is becoming a growing environmental problem. Currently, there is few data available on the effects of salinisation on subterranean crustaceans that are vital for the maintenance of groundwater ecosystem functioning. In this study, the sensitivity of subterranean Niphargus amphipods to NaCl was investigated. We expected that cave-dwelling species would be more sensitive as surface-subterranean boundary species. Eight ecologically different Niphargus species were tested: four live at the boundary between the surface and subterranean ecosystems (N. timavi, N. krameri, N. sphagnicolus, N. spinulifemur), three live in cave streams (N. stygius, N. scopicauda, N. podpecanus), and one species (N. hebereri) lives in anchialine caves and wells. The organisms were exposed to five concentrations of NaCl for 96 h and afterwards the immobility, mortality, and electron transfer system (ETS) activity (a measure for metabolic rate of animals) were evaluated. As expected, the most tolerant species was N. hebereri dwelling in naturally high-salinity habitat. However, contrary to our expectations, the species collected at the surface-subterranean boundary were more sensitive as cave stream species when their immobility and mortality were assessed. Interestingly, the majority of Niphargus tested were more NaCl tolerant as can be deduced from currently available data for subterranean and surface crustaceans. We could not observe a clear trend in ETS activity changes between groups of surface-subterranean boundary and cave streams species after exposure to NaCl stress, but it appears that osmotic stress-induced metabolic rate changes are species-specific. This study shows that amphipods Niphargus can be a valuable subterranean environmental research model and further ecotoxicity research is of interest.