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Use of the Biotic Ligand Model to predict metal toxicity to aquatic biota in areas of differing geology

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Abstract

This work evaluates the use of the biotic ligand model (BLM), an aquatic toxicity model, to predict toxic effects of metals on aquatic biota in areas underlain by different rock types. The chemical composition of water, soil, and sediment is largely derived from the composition of the underlying rock. Geologic source materials control key attributes of water chemistry that affect metal toxicity to aquatic biota, including: 1) potentially toxic elements, 2) alkalinity, 3) total dissolved solids, and 4) soluble major elements, such as Ca and Mg, which contribute to water hardness. Miller (2002) compiled chemical data for water samples collected in watersheds underlain by ten different rock types, and in a mineralized area in western Colorado. He found that each rock type has a unique range of water chemistry. In this study, the ten rock types were grouped into two general categories, igneous and sedimentary. Water collected in watersheds underlain by sedimentary rock has higher mean pH, alkalinity, and calcium concentrations than water collected in watersheds underlain by igneous rock. Water collected in the mineralized area had elevated concentrations of calcium and sulfate in addition to other chemical constituents. Miller's water-chemistry data were used in the BLM (computer program) to determine copper and zinc toxicity to Daphnia magna. Modeling results show that waters from watersheds underlain by different rock types have characteristic ranges of predicted LC 50 values (a measurement of aquatic toxicity) for copper and zinc, with watersheds underlain by igneous rock having lower predicted LC 50 values than watersheds underlain by sedimentary rock. Lower predicted LC 50 values suggest that aquatic biota in watersheds underlain by igneous rock may be more vulnerable to copper and zinc inputs than aquatic biota in watersheds underlain by sedimentary rock. For both copper and zinc, there is a trend of increasing predicted LC 50 values with increasing dissolved organic carbon (DOC) concentrations. Predicted copper LC 50 values are extremely sensitive to DOC concentrations, whereas alkalinity appears to have an influence on zinc toxicity at alkalinities in excess of about 100 mg/L CaCO 3 . These findings show promise for coupling the BLM (computer program) with measured water-chemistry data to predict metal toxicity to aquatic biota in different geologic settings and under different scenarios. This approach may ultimately be a useful tool for mine-site planning, mitigation and remediation strategies, and ecological risk assessment.

Additional publication details

Publication type Conference Paper
Publication Subtype Conference Paper
Title Use of the Biotic Ligand Model to predict metal toxicity to aquatic biota in areas of differing geology
Year Published 2005
Language English
Publisher American Society of Mining and Reclamation
Publisher location Lexington, KY
Contributing office(s) Crustal Geophysics and Geochemistry Science Center
Description 21 p.
Larger Work Type Book
Larger Work Subtype Conference publication
Larger Work Title Proceedings of the 2005 National Meeting of the American Society of Mining and Reclamation
First page 1134
Last page 1154
Conference Title 2005 National Meeting of the American Society of Mining and Reclamation
Conference Location Breckenridge, CO
Conference Date 06/19/2005
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N