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Bioaccumulation of copper and zinc by the giant kelp Macrocystis pyrifera

by Matthew S Edwards, La Kenya Evans
Algae ()
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This study examined the bioaccumulation of the heavy metals copper (Cu) and zinc (Zn) by the giant kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera, by exposing meristematic kelp tissue to elevated metal concentrations in seawater within laboratory aquaria. Specifically, we carried out two different experiments. The first examined metal uptake under a single, ecologically-rel- evant elevation of each metal (30 ppb Cu and 100 ppb Zn), and the second examined the relationships between varying levels of the metals (i.e., 15, 39, 60, 120, 240, and 480 ppb Cu, and 50, 100, 200, 300, 500, and 600 ppb Zn). Both experi- ments were designed to contrast the uptake of the metals in isolation (i.e., when only one metal concentration was el- evated) and in combination (i.e., when both metals’ concentrations were elevated). Following three days of exposure to the elevated metal concentrations, we collected and analyzed the M. pyrifera tissues using inductively coupled plasma atomic emissions spectroscopy. Our results indicated that M. pyrifera bioaccumulated Cu in all treatments where Cu concentrations in the seawater were elevated, regardless of whether Zn concentrations were also elevated. Similarly, M. pyrifera bioaccumulated Zn in treatments where seawater Zn concentrations were elevated, but this occurred only when we increased Zn alone, and not when we simultaneously increased Cu concentrations. This suggests that elevated Cu concentrations inhibit Zn uptake, but not vice versa. Following this, our second experiment examined the relationships among varying seawater Cu and Zn concentrations and their bioaccumulation by M. pyrifera. Here, our results indicated that, as their concentrations in the seawater rise, Cu and Zn uptake by M. pyrifera tissue also rises. As with the first ex- periment, the presence of elevated Zn in the water did not appear to affect Cu uptake at any concentration examined. However, although it was not statistically significant, we observed that the presence of elevated Cu in seawater appeared to trend toward inhibiting Zn uptake, especially at higher levels of the metals. This study suggests that M. pyrifera may be useful as a bio-indicator species for monitoring heavy metal pollution in coastal environments.

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