Using nematodes to evaluate the real impact of oil pollution on benthic communities

Progress not set: March 2012 -

Although effects of oil pollution on meiofauna and nematode communities have received attention in previous studies, no clear pattern was found in the meiofauna response, indicating that the results depend on the pollution degree and type, time of exposure, environmental characteristics, and on the nature and structure of meiobenthic communities. Therefore, this project aims to evaluate the effects of well-characterized water soluble fractions of oil on aquatic nematodes, by combining single-species with community assays, which has hitherto rarely (if ever) been done. Single-species tests are more specific and controllable, while community assays are ecologically more relevant. In this way, we provide a more representative and complete assessment of the possible risks of oil in the environment, using nematodes as test organisms. This project is a partnership between the Zoology Department of Bielefeld University (Germany,PI Walter Traunspurger) and the Marine Biology Section of Ghent University (Belgium,PI Tom Moens) . The first institution is specialized in ecotoxicology, focusing on freshwater nematodes; while the second has considerable expertise in the study of marine nematodes. This allows us to investigate both estuarine/marine and freshwater compartments in the same study, a comparison which is rarely made, and it also allows us to combine standardized population assays (from Bielefeld University) with community assays, looking at intra- and interspecific interactions. A further important aspect of this work is the comparison of life-history and behavioural response variables.