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Comparative sensitivity of aquatic invertebrate and vertebrate species to wastewater from an operational coal mine in central Queensland, Australia
journal contributionposted on 01.08.2018, 00:00 by C Lanctôt, Scott Wilson, Larelle Fabbro, FDL Leusch, Steven Melvin
Coal excavation and refinement processes generate substantial volumes of contaminated effluent that may be detrimental to aquatic ecosystems. As such, understanding the impacts of coal mine water releases on aquatic animals and ecosystems is essential for effectively managing and protecting neighboring environments. Such information will ultimately be applied towards developing ongoing monitoring strategies that are protective of native wildlife. Despite intensive mining operations in Australia, few studies have documented toxicity associated with coal mine wastewater (CMW) on native species. To address existing knowledge gaps, we investigated acute toxicity (48-96h) using eight native invertebrate species and sub-chronic effects (2 week) using three vertebrate species following exposure to wastewater from two dams (CMW1 and CMW2) located at an open-cut coal mine licensed to discharge into the Fitzroy catchment (Queensland, Australia). Wastewater from these sites is characterized by elevated conductivity, pH, sulfates as well as relatively high total and dissolved metal(loid)s (including As, Al, B, Cu, Mn, Ni, Se and Zn). Acute exposures revealed cladocerans (Daphnia carinata) and planarians (Dugesia sp.) to be the most sensitive species, exhibiting significant mortality after 48 and 96h exposure to CMW2, respectively. Neither wastewater was found to elicit acute toxicity in vertebrates, but a range of sub-lethal morphological effects were observed following the sub-chronic exposures. The overall response pattern was characterized by decreased condition factor and hepatosomatic index in the fish Hypseleotris compressa and Pseudomugil signifier, and in Limnodynastes peronii tadpoles. Tadpoles were generally more sensitive compared to the two fish species. Differences in responses were observed amongst CMW1 and CMW2, which likely relates to differences in physico-chemical properties between sites. Our results have identified several candidate vertebrate and invertebrate species that show promise for ongoing monitoring of water quality and toxicity risk in Central Queensland, Australia.