Aquatic ecotoxicology in the Australian wet-dry tropics

1999

eriss note
Rick van Dam and Caroline Camilleri,
Environmental Research Institute of the Supervising Scientist, November 1999

About the note

Ecotoxicology seeks to understand how toxic chemicals (toxicants) affect the structure and function of natural ecological systems (populations, communities and ecosystems). The eriss ecotoxicology program (within the broader Wetland Ecology and Conservation Group at eriss) investigates the risks and impacts of pollutants (toxicants) to the highly valued wetland ecosystems of northern Australia. Included in these ecosystems are the World Heritage and Ramsar listed wetlands of Kakadu National Park (KNP).

The eriss ecotoxicology program was established in the late 1980s to assess the toxicity of, and determine 'safe' dilution levels of waste water from the Ranger uranium mine in Kakadu National Park. However, the wetlands of Australia's wet-dry tropics are under threat from a variety of chemical contaminants, including heavy metals from a range of mining activities and pesticides from agriculture. Thus, in recent years the program has expanded and diversified, and now uses its expertise to assess the potential environmental impacts of a range of regionally relevant chemical stressors.

Whole organism toxicity bioassays have been developed at the ecotoxicology laboratory to determine the acute and chronic toxicity of chemicals, environmental samples or complex effluents, to tropical freshwater organisms.

This eriss note describes the philosophy and approach of Aquatic Ecotoxicology at eriss.