Are salts toxicants?

Australasian Society for Ecotoxicology
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Australasian Journal of Ecotoxicology, 2002, 8 (2), pp. 63 - 68
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Rising saline watertables, or salinisation, is recognised as one of the most serious environmental problems in Australia . Salinisation can increase salinity of rivers and wetlands due to surface drainage, sub-surface seepage and the management practice of pumping and draining the watertable into rivers and wetlands. There has been considerable interest in the effects of salinity on aquatic biota. Limited work has been undertaken, however, that allows good predictions of the effects of increased salinity on aquatic ecosystems. It is also worth noting that aquatic ecologists, rather than ecotoxicologists, have conducted the majority of research on this topic. This would appear to be due to the belief that a change in salinity is an environmental stress and common salts are not toxicants. Salinity is the result of naturally occurring, essential elements, it is altered by agricultural and industrial activity and, if salt concentrations are high enough, the result is mortality. We argue that common salts can be considered toxicants and that there is a need for greater collaboration between aquatic ecologists, ecotoxicologists and physiologists in this vital research area. Data on the toxicity of saline lakes, synthetic seawater and synthetic saline lake waters to Daphnia carinata are presented in support of the argument. Preliminary data on the salinity tolerance of selected macroinvertebrate species from the Barwon River , south-west Victoria are also presented.
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