Coal mining and extraction of methane from coal beds generate effluent with elevated salinity or major ion concentrations. If discharged to freshwater systems, these effluents may have adverse environmental effects. There is a growing body of work on freshwater invertebrates that indicates variation in the proportion of major ions can be more important than salinity when determining toxicity. However, it is not known if saline toxicity in a subset of species is representative of toxicity across all freshwater invertebrates. If patterns derived from a subset of species are representative of all freshwater invertebrates, then we would expect a correlation in the relative sensitivity of these species to multiple saline waters. Here, we determine if there is a correlation between the acute (96 h) lethal toxicity in freshwater invertebrates to synthetic marine salts (SMS) and sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO 3) added to dechlorinated Sydney tap water. NaHCO 3 is a major component of many coal bed effluents. However, most salinization in Australia exhibits ionic composition similar to seawater, which has very little HCO 3 –. Across all eight species tested, NaHCO 3 was 2–50 times more toxic than SMS. We also observed strong correlations in the acute toxicity of seven of the tested species to SMS and NaHCO 3. The strongest relationship (LC50 r 2 ¼ 0.906) was dependent on the exclusion of one species, Paratya australiensis (Decopoda: Atyidae), which was the most sensitive species tested to NaHCO 3, but the second-most tolerant of SMS. We conclude that differences in the toxicity of different proportions of major ions can be similar across a wide range of species. Therefore, a small subset of the invertebrate community can be representative of the whole. However, there are some species, which based on the species tested in the current study appear to be a minority, that respond differently to saline effluent and need to be considered separately. We discuss the implications of this study for the management of saline coal bed waters. This article is part of the theme issue ‘Salt in freshwaters: causes, ecological consequences and future prospects’.
|Number of pages||8|
|Journal||Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences|
|Publication status||Published - 21 Jan 2019|