Multiple stressors and pollutants

Freshwaters are used intensively by humans, meaning that they are exposed to a number of stressors. We explore the complex interrelations and impacts of the different stressors: How do nutrients and contaminants enter our surface waters, which factors play a central role in this process, and where are rivers and lakes in a particularly poor state? Nutrient inputs of nitrogen and phosphate, for example, may affect water quality, leading to algal blooms. It is often impossible to completely remove pharmaceuticals and biocides during wastewater treatment. They then end up in rivers and lakes, where they may affect the hormonal metabolism of fish and amphibians. Mining may lead to the contamination of adjacent freshwaters with potash and sulphate. Land use change, urbanisation, water control structures and the increasing use of artificial lighting at night (light pollution) exert additional pressure on our freshwaters. In our research, we acknowledge that use by humans is an important part of reality – only then can future-oriented solutions be developed.

Selected publications

October 2023
Nature Protocols. - 18(2023) 3534–3564

Exposure protocol for ecotoxicity testing of microplastics and nanoplastics

Fazel Abdolahpur Monikh; Anders Baun; Nanna B. Hartmann; Raine Kortet; Jarkko Akkanen; Jae-Seong Lee; Huahong Shi; Elma Lahive; Emilia Uurasjärvi; Nathalie Tufenkji; Korinna Altmann; Yosri Wiesner; Hans-Peter Grossart; Willie Peijnenburg; Jussi V. K. Kukkonen

Despite the increasing concern about the harmful effects of micro- and nanoplastics (MNPs), so far, there exist no harmonised guidelines for testing the ecotoxicity of MNPs. An international research team with IGB has now developed protocols to assess the toxicity of these substances in soil and aquatic ecosystems.

September 2023
Water Resources Research. - 59(2023)7, Art. e2022WR034203

Time Series of Electrical Conductivity Fluctuations Give Insights Into Long-Term Solute Transport Dynamics of an Urban Stream

Anna Jaeger; Jonas L. Schaper; Paul Romeijn; Andrea Betterle; Malte Posselt; Stefan Krause; Jörg Lewandowski; Joakim Riml

A solute transport model was applied to diurnal electrical conductivity fluctuations in a river to obtain long-term time series of transport metrics. The study showed that differences in transport metrics occur in adjacent river reaches and that mowing of macrophytes can increase the transient storage area.

May 2023
Journal of Hydrology. - 621(2023) Art. 129600

Particle-associated organic contaminant and cytotoxicity transport in a river during storm events

Clarissa Glaser; Beate I. Escher; Michelle Engelhardt; Yuyuan Liu; Martin Krauss; Maria König; Rita Schlichting; Christiane Zarfl; Stephanie Spahr

This study investigated the mobilisation and transport of particle-associated organic contaminants and their cytotoxicity in a river during storm events. Cytotoxicity determined in cell-based bioassays correlated linearly with total suspended solids concentration in a river, demonstrating that particle-associated contaminant mixtures can strongly affect river water quality during rain events.

March 2023
WIREs Water. - X(2023)X, Art. e1641

Multispecies assemblages and multiple stressors: synthesizing the state of experimental research in freshwaters

Fengzhi He; Roshni Arora; India Mansour

This is a review of multiple-stressor research in freshwaters, particularly studies that have experimentally manipulated multiple stressors and measured responses of multispecies assemblages. There is a gap between biotic interactions under multiple stressors and ecosystem recovery pathways after restoration, indicating a disconnect between multiple stressor research and environmental practice.

Related Projects

Contact person
Martin Pusch
Christian Wolter
Sonja Jähnig
Thomas Mehner
(Dept. 1) Ecohydrology and Biogeochemistry
(Dept. 2) Community and Ecosystem Ecology
(Dept. 3) Plankton and Microbial Ecology
(Dept. 4) Fish Biology, Fisheries and Aquaculture
(Dept. 5) Evolutionary and Integrative Ecology

Related Downloads

EU Consultation: IGB feedback on Nutrient Action Plan

Based on its research and expertise, IGB commented on the EU Consultation “Nutrients – Action plan for better management”. While the scientific advice focuses on the impact of nutrient emissions on freshwater ecosystems, the IGB scientists underlined that aquatic systems are also closely linked to their terrestrial surrounding.


City, country, river: modelling and managing nutrient pollution in lakes and rivers

Experts at IGB

Tobias Goldhammer

Programme Area Speaker
Research group
Nutrient Cycles and Chemical Analytics

Franz Hölker

Programme Area Speaker
Research group
Light Pollution and Ecophysiology

Matthias Stöck

Research Group Leader
Research group
Genetics and Evolution of Fish (and other Vertebrates)

Markus Venohr

Programme Area Speaker
Research group
River System Modelling

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