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Establishing Causality between Exposure to Metals and Effects on Fish

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This study evaluates causal relationships between chronic exposure of fish to metals and effects at different levels of biological organization based on a weight-of-evidence approach. Criteria for evaluation of causality were strength, consistency, and specificity of the association, as well as biological gradient and plausibility. Field sampling was conducted three times between 1998 and 2000, in Furnas Stream, impacted by an abandoned lead mine, and in three other locations, including two reference and one impacted sites. Levels of Pb, Zn, Cd, and Ag in sediments from the Furnas Stream exceeded background levels, and their concentrations were above sediment quality guidelines. Residual levels of metals in fish tissue were high enough to indicate reduced growth, reproduction and/or survival according to toxicological benchmarks. Lead-induced biochemical changes (ALA-D activity depletion) were observed in two species of siluriform catfish. The condition factor of a predatory catfish was reduced, and the percentage of prey generalists was higher in Furnas than at the noncontaminated sites. Reduction in fish community diversity and density was observed. Integration of data provided supporting evidence that observed effects on fish from the Furnas Stream resulted from long-term exposure to metals, however influences from other stressors cannot be ruled out.
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Keywords: causality; fish; metals; rain forest; weight-of-evidence

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Environmental Systems Analysis, Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, SE-412 96, Sweden 2: Laboratório de Ecologia Animal, Escola Superior de Agricultura Luiz de Queiroz, Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil 3: Department of Zoology, Gothenburg University, Sweden 4: Water Environment Transport, Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden

Publication date: 2003-01-01

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