Copper and gold nanoparticles increase nutrient excretion rates of primary consumers

Brittany G. Perrotta, Marie Simonin, Jeffrey A. Back, Steven M. Anderson, Astrid Avellan, Christina M. Bergemann, Benjamin T. Castellon, Benjamin P. Colman, Gregory V. Lowry, Cole W. Matson, Emily S. Bernhardt, Ryan S. King

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Freshwater ecosystems are exposed to engineered nanoparticles through municipal and industrial wastewater-effluent discharges and agricultural nonpoint source runoff. Because previous work has shown that engineered nanoparticles from these sources can accumulate in freshwater algal assemblages, we hypothesized that nanoparticles may affect the biology of primary consumers by altering the processing of two critical nutrients associated with growth and survivorship, nitrogen and phosphorus. We tested this hypothesis by measuring the excretion rates of nitrogen and phosphorus of Physella acuta, a ubiquitous pulmonate snail that grazes heavily on periphyton, exposed to either copper or gold engineered nanoparticles for 6 months in an outdoor wetland mesocosm experiment. Chronic nanoparticle exposure doubled nutrient excretion when compared to the control. Gold nanoparticles increased nitrogen and phosphorus excretion rates more than copper nanoparticles, but overall, both nanoparticles led to higher consumer excretion, despite contrasting particle stability and physiochemical properties. Snails in mesocosms enriched with nitrogen and phosphorus had overall higher excretion rates than ones in ambient (no nutrients added) mesocosms. Stimulation patterns were different between nitrogen and phosphorus excretion, which could have implications for the resulting nutrient ratio in the water column. These results suggest that low concentrations of engineered nanoparticles could alter the metabolism of consumers and increase consumer-mediated nutrient recycling rates, potentially intensifying eutrophication in aquatic systems, for example, the increased persistence of algal blooms as observed in our mesocosm experiment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10170-10180
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number16
StatePublished - Aug 18 2020


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