The relationship between organochlorine pesticide exposure and biomarker responses of amphibians in the lower Phongolo River floodplain
Wolmarans, Nicolaas Johannes
MetadataShow full item record
Amphibians are regarded as sensitive indicators of environmental change and are therefore excellent subjects for use in ecotoxicology. The Phongolo River floodplain is South Africa’s most diverse natural floodplain system and hosts more than 40 frog species. It is also a malaria endemic region and is subjected to active spraying with Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) through means of indoor residual spraying over the summer months. The upper Phongolo River runs through agricultural landscape and is subjected to runoff from forest plantations, orchards and sugar cane plantations. In this study residue levels of 22 different organochlorine pesticides (OCPs) were analysed in selected amphibian species from in and around the Ndumo Nature Reserve coupled with 12 different biomarker response assays to determine environmental exposure levels and possible sublethal effects in amphibians from the lower Phongolo River floodplain. Seasonal change, direct influence of anthropogenic activity and the influence of species’ aquatic preference in habitat selection were all factors considered during this assessment. Stable Isotope analyses were performed on 11 different food web components In order to determine the food web structure pertaining to Xenopus muelleri (Müller's platanna). Samples were collected during both high and low flow seasons from inside and outside Ndumo Nature Reserve. Organochlorine pesticide bioaccumulation was analysed in whole frog samples using a GC-μECD. Results indicated significant seasonal variation in OCP levels and exposure composition. Significant differences between inside and outside sites were also noted. Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane in its different isomer forms and their metabolites along with the hexachlorocyclohexane (HCH) isomers was the two main contributing OCP groups detected. Total OCP levels from all sample sets ranged between 8.71 ng/g lipid and 21,399.03 ng/g lipid. An increase in OCP accumulation was observed for X. muelleri over a period of one year. Organochlorine pesticides are known to have neurotoxic effects causingm imbalances in Na+, K+, and Ca+ ion exchange. Hyperactivity has been reported in Rana temporaria (European Common frog) tadpoles exposed to p,p-DDT concentrations above 110,000 ng/g lipid. Despite OCP levels measured in frogs from this study being lower than reported toxic levels, the biomarker response assays indicated definite oxidative stress responses correlating to OCP bioaccumulation, with other minor responses shown. Cellular energy allocation showed a shift in the main energy source type from proteins to lipids correlating to increased OCP bioaccumulation. A slight inhibition response was noted in the hepato-somatic index correlating to γ-HCH bioaccumulation. Stable isotope analyses indicated food web structure differences between inside and outside the reserve, with outside showing less clear distinction between trophic groups and nitrogen enrichment of primary producers.