TBT causes regime shift in shallow lakes

Sayer, Carl D.; Hoare, Daniel J.; Simpson, Gavin L.; Henderson, Andrew C. G.; Liptrot, Eleanor R.; Jackson, Michael J.; Appleby, Peter G.; Boyle, John F.; Jones, J. Iwan; Waldock, Mike J.. 2006 TBT causes regime shift in shallow lakes. Environmental Science & Technology, 40. 5269-5275.

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Tributyltin (TBT) is an organotin compound used since the early 1960s as a biocide in boat antifouling paints. Its use has been linked to a host of negative effects in marine ecosystems including malformations and imposex in Mollusca and acute toxicity in many other aquatic animals. Yet, the consequences of TBT use in freshwaters are largely unknown. Here, for the first time we reveal that TBT may have caused hitherto unsuspected damage to freshwater ecosystems. Through an analysis of dated sediment cores collected from a system of recreationally boated, shallow lakes, we show that first evidence of TBT is associated with a dramatic loss of submerged vegetation and associated diverse animal communities. Cause and effect are difficult to unravel in our study. However, we hypothesize that TBT, through reducing populations of grazing organisms in lakes already affected by eutrophication, promoted the replacement of macrophytes by phytoplankton, ultimately leading to a regime shift in the ecosystem. Our findings may have parallels in freshwater ecosystems all over the world.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Programmes: CEH Programmes pre-2009 publications > Water
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: _ River Ecology
ISSN: 0013-936X
NORA Subject Terms: Biology and Microbiology
Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 13 May 2008 11:21 +0 (UTC)

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