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Water Resources, Vol. 31, No. 5, 2004, pp. 502–510. Translated from Vodnye Resursy, Vol. 31, No. 5, 2004, pp. 546–555.

Original Russian Text Copyright © 2004 by Ostroumov.

WATER QUALITY AND PROTECTION:
ENVIRONMENTAL ASPECTS

The Effect of Synthetic Surfactants
on the Hydrobiological Mechanisms of Water Self-Purification
S. A. Ostroumov
Moscow State University, Leninskie gory, Moscow, 119992 Russia
Received December 27, 2002

Abstract—Long-term studies of the biological effect of surfactants, including the effect surfactants exert on
filter feeders, are reviewed. The role of filter feeders in the functioning of freshwater and marine ecosystems is
analyzed. New aspects in the assessment of environmental hazard due to the impact of chemical pollutants,
including surfactants and detergents, are established.

INTRODUCTION physical and physicochemical processes [27],
Studies made by the author [21–38] and data given including dissolution and dilution; discharge of pollut-
in [5, 40, 56, 57] show that surfactants and surfactant- ants onto the shore and into nearby water bodies; pol-
containing compounds have an adverse impact on rep- lutant sorption by suspended particles with subsequent
resentatives of the major functional blocks of ecosys- sedimentation; pollutant sorption by bottom sediments;
tems, including both autotrophic [5, 38, 40] and het- and pollutant evaporation;
erotrophic organisms [21, 22, 27]. chemical processes [42], including pollutant hydroly-
sis; photochemical transformations; redox–catalytic
transformations; transformation involving free radicals;
SELF-PURIFICATION OF WATER BODIES pollutant bonding by dissolved organic matter (DOM),
AND THE ROLE OF HYDROBIONTS which reduces pollutant toxicity; chemical oxidation of
IN MAINTAINING WATER QUALITY pollutants with the participation of oxygen;
There are several definitions of the notion of water biological processes [3, 7, 10, 13, 19, 39, 44, 50],
self-purification. According to one definition, it is con- including sorption and accumulation of pollutants and
sidered “the entire complex of biological, physical, and nutrients by hydrobionts; biotransformation (redox-
chemical processes that allow a water body to free itself reactions, destruction, and conjugation); mineralization
from pollutants delivered into it by wastewater or of organic matter (OM); extracellular fermentative
formed as a result of the activity of aboriginal organ- transformation of pollutants; removal of suspended
isms” [16], while, according to another, “water self- particles and pollutants from a water column through
purification in water bodies is water purification as a water filtration by hydrobionts; removal of pollutants
result of natural biological and physicochemical pro- from a water column as a result of sorption by pellets,
cesses, transformation of organic and, partially, inorganic excreted by hydrobionts; nutrient consumption by
matter” [46]. The results of a series of studies [7, 13] have benthos, leading to the prevention or retardation of nutri-
largely contributed to the understanding of self-purifi- ents and pollutants passing from bottom sediments into
cation processes. water; biotransformation and sorption of pollutants in
Wastewater passing through treatment facilities fails soil, when polluted water is used for watering land; reg-
to have its complete purification guaranteed. Thus, an ulation of effects on other components of the water self-
important function of natural ecosystems is the final purification system, including the effect on organisms
treatment of waters. (the list is incomplete; the phenomena are interrelated,
and individual processes can be singled out only conven-
The self-purification processes in aquatic ecosys- tionally with the aim of analyzing and studying them).
tems are of importance not only from the viewpoint of
maintaining water quality as a resource for water con- Important additional information about the above-
sumption, but also in terms of maintaining habitats mentioned processes is given in [14, 56].
appropriate for preservation of biodiversity. In fact, biological factors play a significant role in
the processes that are formally classified as physical or
chemical [22–24, 27].
The Contribution of Hydrobionts to the Maintaining The author of this paper has advanced a conception,
of Water Quality and Its Self-Purification according to which the aquatic ecosystem is an ana-
The self-purification of an aquatic environment logue of a large-scale diversified bioreactor with a
incorporates water-purification function [25], and formulated the

0097-8078/04/3105-0502 © 2004 MAIK “Nauka /Interperiodica”
THE EFFECT OF SYNTHETIC SURFACTANTS ON THE HYDROBIOLOGICAL MECHANISMS 503

concept of the polyfunctional role of hydrobionts (and The Role of Benthic Filter Feeders in the Formation
the aquatic biota as a whole) in the purification of of Water Quality and its Purification
aquatic ecosystems [53]. Benthic filter feeders have a conditioning effect on
The self-purification processes involve virtually all water quality through removing from it various types of
hydrobiont groups, including microorganisms. The role suspension. The assimilability of food by benthic filter
of the latter is analyzed in detail in [56]. feeders varies within a wide range and, for some fresh-
water mollusks, amounts to 40–47% [19]. The rest of
The rates of pollutant decay are controlled by virtu- the filtered organic matter is excreted and reaches the
ally all ecosystem components and are regarded as one bottom deposits in the form of pellets, which makes the
of its integral characteristic [27]. filter feeders participants in significant biogeochemical
In some works, the contribution of hydrobionts in flows associated with the extraction of suspended mat-
self-purification is considered a constant factor that ter from water.
does not depend on the hazardous impact exerted on Zebra mussels in the western part of Lake Erie (up
organisms by substances polluting the ecosystem [49]. to 50 thousand specimens per 1 m2) were reported to
However, the biological self-purification factors are consume each day the amount of phytoplankton 2–
now subject to many impacts, including the pollution of 4 times greater than their observed biomass per 1 m2
the aquatic environment. [27]. In summer, mollusks in Lake Krasnoe (Unio
Experiments carried out in order to characterize the tumidus, U. pictorum, Anodonta complanta) filter 123–
biological effect of anionic surfactants, nonionic sur- 174 g of suspended organic matter in the water column
factants, cationic surfactants, and mixed preparations above 1 m2 of the bed [27]. A water layer 12 m in thick-
(foam-detergents), detected by their effect on hydro- ness in Lake Baikal is filtered by sponges within about
bionts [27], were made with the use of organisms tak- 1.2 day [27]. Mollusks of the Dnieper–Bug liman (The
ing part in the self-purification processes in water bod- Black Sea) filter the liman water volume more than
ies [22–24, 39]. 16 times per vegetation season [3]. The volume of water
filtered by macroinvertebrates (mollusks, ascidia, and
Depending on the situation, synthetic surfactants polychaeta) commonly totals 1–10 m3/(m2 day) [27].
and other pollutants may have different effects on Benthic filter feeders can contribute to the regula-
hydrobionts (they can inhibit their growth, change their tion of processes associated with the eutrophication of
behavior, and the like), which can affect the water puri- water bodies and mass blooming of toxic plankton spe-
fication processes. In this context, both planktonic and cies [27].
benthic organisms are of importance.
Water filtering in an ecosystem is critical for the
An important self-purification factor of aquatic eco- self-purification of the water body and the regulation of
systems is the functional activity of planktonic organ- processes that proceed in it. Specifically:
isms. Bacterio-, phyto-, and zooplankton take part in all —Suspension particles precipitate along with the
the processes that lead to water purification. pollutants they have absorbed;
The filtration activity of plankton has been studied —It reduces water turbidity and improves the con-
and estimated by many authors [10, 44]. In particular, it ditions for visible and ultraviolet light penetration,
was established that rotifers are capable of filtrating the thus facilitating their effect on hydrobionts and
entire volume of water in which they live up to organic matter;
7.7 times a day [27]. —It decreases the concentration of fine suspension
Plankton experience both direct and indirect impact in water, thus enhancing the fishery value of the water
of pollutants. The direct impact of pollutants on phy- body. Otherwise, an increase in the suspension content
toplankton was considered in [5, 55] and many other of water will cause a decrease in the filtration rate of all
works. The author has recognized and examined the the biofilterers examined [3, 44];
effect of surfactants on S. quadricauda (the effect of —Water mixing is intensified, facilitating water aer-
sodium dodecylsulfate, SDS), M. lutheri (the effect of eto- ation and affecting phyto- and zooplankton develop-
nii cationic surfactant) [38], marine cyanobacteria Syni- ment; higher phytoplankton concentrations and lower
chococcus (the effect of nonionic surfactant TKh-100) concentrations of nutrient and zooplankton;
[45], euglena E. gracilis (the effect of synthetic surfactants —Water aeration and oxygen consumption condi-
Bio-S and Kristall) [6], Dunaliella asymmetrica (the effect tions improve, thus facilitating organic matter oxida-
of sulfonol), marine diatoms Talassiosira pseudonana (the tion;
effect of nonionic surfactant TKh-100) [27]. —The species composition and the abundance of
The indirect effect of pollutants on phytoplankton is individual species of alga–bacterial community are
due to the dependence of the phytoplankton population controlled; these factors, in turn, determine the genera-
on many abiotic and biotic factors, including the rate of tion and destruction rates of hydrogen peroxide and the
its grazing by invertebrate filter feeders [8, 10], in par- rate of free-radical self-purification;
ticular, benthic ones [3, 7, 19]. —Components of DOM are excreted;

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504 OSTROUMOV

—Sedimentation of organic matter accelerates due Data on the effect of pollutants on filtration activity
to the assimilation of phyto- and bacterioplankton by of plankton are also available [15, 27, 48]. The rates of
benthic biofilterers, excretion of faecal pellets and water filtration and the feeding of the freshwater crus-
pseudo-faeces by biofilterers; tacean Daphnia magna by Chlamydomonas reinhardii
—The active growth and functional activity of mol- cells were found to be sensitive to the phenvalerat pyre-
lusks–biofilterers facilitates the development and func- throid [27]. The method of delayed fluorescence [15]
tioning of heterotrophic bacteria in the underlying part was used to show that the rate of daphnia (Daphnia
of the ecosystem [22–24, 27]. magna) feeding by chlorella cells change under the
effect of saturn herbicide (0.001–0.1 mg/l), insecti-
The above considerations are of an environmental cides DDT (0.1–1 mg/l) and metaphos (2 mg/l), as well
value. Thus, the formation of certain water transpar- as under the influence of copper sulfate.
ency is of importance for the penetration of UV-radia-
tion and the implementation of its biological effects in TDTMA surfactant inhibited the filtration activity
water bodies. A reduction in the amount of suspension of two types of rotifers—Brachionus angularis and
is important, because suspensions adversely affect Brachionus plicatilis [11].
many hydrobionts [3, 9, 17, 44, 57]. The excessive The filtration activity of hydrobionts can be affected
amount of suspension in water can increase the toxicity by the entry of nutrients containing N and P into the
of pollutants. aquatic environment. These compounds stimulate the
development and increase in phytoplankton biomass.
Several groups of filterers were found to exhibit a
Pollutant Effect on Filterers decrease in the filtration rate at an increase in the con-
The author’s experiments confirmed the inhibition centration of nutrient particles (for example, the con-
of the filtration activity of hydrobionts under the effect centration of phyto- and bacterioplankton cells) [3, 44].
of anionic, non-anionic, and cationic surfactants, syn- As mentioned above, the mechanisms of water self-
thetic detergents, foam-detergents, and liquid deter- purification include processes that involve het-
gents [27]. erotrophic bacteria, cyanobacteria, algae, as well as
Pollutants (in particular, anionic, non-anionic, and flagellate, planktonic, and benthic biofilterers. Varia-
cationic surfactants) affect the rate of water filtration, tions in the population, the growth and feeding rates of
thus affecting the rate of removal of phytoplankton cells hydrobionts [19], the rates of excretion of faecal and
from the ecosystem. Synthetic surfactants are capable of pseudo-faecal pellets [27], and changes in the ratios of
inhibiting water filtration by M. edulis, M. galloprovin- species in aquatic biocenoses under the effect of surfac-
cialis, C. gigas, U. tumidus, and U. pictorum [27, 28, tants cannot but affect the self-purification processes.
37, 50–54]. Statistical significance of the effect of syn- These processes are dependent on the trophic activity
thetic surfactants is established [24, 27]. [19] of both bivalve and lung mollusks, which generate
The results of experiments agree with data on the a large amount of pellets rapidly precipitating onto the
effect of other pollutants on other mollusk species [17]. bed under the effect of gravity, thus contributing to the
Various pollutants cause an increase in the time that removal of the organic matter of organisms consumed as
mollusks spent with their valves closed [47]. In the a food from the pelagic zone. The sedimentation velocity
author’s experiments, M. edulis closed its valves at the of the pellets proved to be higher than that of individual
concentration of SDS of 20 mg/l. This concentration is phytoplankton cells and their fragments [14].
much higher than that (1–2 mg/l) sufficient for inhibit- The differential biological activity of anthropogenic
ing the filtration rate. substances with respect to organisms of different eco-
Suppression of water biofiltration by bivalves under logical groups is especially distinct in the case of a
the effect of pollutants was also demonstrated by other complex pollution of aquatic environment [46], includ-
authors [2, 17]. ing synthetic detergent pollution, when P enters into the
water along with synthetic surfactants. Under certain
The environmental pollution results in that organ- conditions, synthetic detergents (containing surfactants
isms–filterers disappear from the macrozoobenthos and compounds of P) can stimulate alga growth. For
composition in polluted areas within rivers and reser- example, Tide-Lemon synthetic detergent at a concen-
voirs [27], which eventually reduces the filtration activ- tration of 1–100 mg/l stimulated growth of Syn-
ity of the benthic community. echocystis sp. PCC–6803 [12]. Similar data were inde-
There are virtually no filterers (mollusks, pearl- pendently obtained for some marine microalgae [1].
worts, or sponges) in the zooperiphyton composition in A potentially hazardous situation emerges when the
the aquatic ecosystems of the upper Volga where the growth of phytoplankton organisms is stimulated (due
environmental conditions are poor [41]. The biomass of to P input), and the filtration activity, leading to the
filterers abruptly dropped in the Fennoscandian water removal of phytoplankton from the water column is
bodies at an increase in the phosphorus concentration inhibited (under the effect of surfactants). The alga pop-
Ptot in water, a decrease in pH, and toxification (near the ulation can be stable only if the factors that cause an
sources of heavy metal pollution) [48]. increase and decrease in the population are in balance

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THE EFFECT OF SYNTHETIC SURFACTANTS ON THE HYDROBIOLOGICAL MECHANISMS 505

(alga grazing by consumers, including benthic filterers, synthetic surfactants results in their accumulation in
is among these factors). Therefore, when both surfac- soils and plants [27]. The author has made experiments
tants and P enter into the water, disbalance can form to study the effect of synthetic surfactants on several
between the processes that determine the state of phy- plant species, including Sinapis alba L., Fagopyrum
toplankton in the water body subject to pollution [29], escelentum Moench, Lepidium sativum L., Oryza
thus facilitating alga blooming. sativa L., Camelina sativa (L.) Crantz, Triticum aesti-
Taking into account the diversity of biological vum L., and others. The results of these experiments
effects that surfactants can have on the representatives show that synthetic surfactants inhibit the growth of
of all major hydrobiont groups, we come to understand- plant germs even when their concentration in water is
ing the fact that the aquatic biota (including micro- and much less than the maximum concentration in waste-
macroorganisms) is a labile and vulnerable component water [21, 27]. When in concentrations lower than
in the system of water self-purification. Bivalves, which those that notably inhibited the extension of germs,
filtrate water, are among the most vulnerable compo- synthetic surfactants affected the formation of root
nents [34–37, 50–54]. fibrils by plant rhizoderma [24, 27]. This also has an
effect on the ecological interaction in the plant–soil
system. Of interest in this connection are the results of
WATER PURIFICATION experiments demonstrating an increase in the popula-
AND SOME APPLIED ASPECTS tion of cyanobacteria (including nitrogen-fixing bacte-
There are many ways of using organisms in schemes ria) in soil under the influence of aqueous solutions of
of biotechnological treatment of polluted water [43] synthetic surfactants [27]. Thus, the results of studies of
and ecosystems or their components. the effect synthetic surfactants exert on plants and soil
cyanobacteria essentially supplement the published
Of great importance is the information about the tol- data and suggest the possibility of disturbance of the
erance limits of hydrobionts with respect to all major structural–functional parameters of ecosystems, which
pollutants, including synthetic surfactants. Standards will certainly affect their water-purification potential
have been introduced to restrict the concentration of and the ecological capacity of agricultural lands (their
synthetic surfactants in waters sent to treatment facili- ability to serve for the utilization of polluted waters).
ties (20–50 mg/l) [43]. These standards refer to syn-
thetic surfactants in general without differentiation into For the practical solution of problems of water treat-
individual components of classes of synthetic surfac- ment and the rehabilitation and enhancement of the nat-
tants. ural aquatic ecosystems that have already been pol-
luted, of great importance are the approaches involving
Various test-objects were used in the author’s exper- bio- and phyto-remediation.
iments for testing the biological activity of synthetic
surfactants. Tests based on angiosperm plants allowed Numerous biotechnological schemes of polluted
ordering the representatives of different classes of syn- water treatment are known to use some organisms, in
thetic surfactants in accordance with their biological particular, immobilized microorganisms [27, 43], float-
activity. Thus, in accordance with increasing inhibiting ing or partly submerged macrophytes. Destruction of
effect on ¿. esculentum, different synthetic surfactants pollutants with the use of artificial ecosystems and phy-
form the series: CHMA polymeric surfactant (copoly- toremediation is much cheaper (specifically, in terms of
mer of hexen and malein aldehyde) < anionic surfactant operating cost, it is no less than 30% cheaper) than
DSN PMS (Vilva) < non-ionic surfactant TKh-100 < other methods of elimination (destruction) of xenobiot-
cationic surfactant TDTMA. ics [27].
Therefore, the heterogeneity of synthetic surfactants The newly collected data on the sensitivity and tol-
should be taken into account in the future works aimed erance of some plant species to synthetic surfactants
at standardization of the chemistry of water supplied to can be of use for works aimed at phytoremediation of
the biological treatment. In practice, the situation is polluted waters and ecosystems.
even more aggravated by the fact that the synthetic sur-
factant content of wastewater often exceeds the above- PROBLEMS OF ASSESSING
considered admissible levels and can reach 30 g/l. The THE ENVIRONMENTAL HAZARD
role of synthetic surfactants increases also by the effi- OF ANTHROPOGENIC IMPACT
ciency of their treatment averaging 48–80% (and as low ON HYDROBIONTS
as 20% in winter) [4]; individual types of synthetic sur-
factants (such as non-ionic surfactants from the class of The diversity and environmental role of the biologi-
alkilphenols derivative) belong to the class of difficultly cal effects of synthetic surfactants, including sublethal
decomposable xenobiotics, and the percent of water ones, allow establishment of the incomplete adequacy
purification from them is even lower. of some systems of criteria used for the assessment of
In some regions where water resources are deficient, the environmental hazard of chemicals.
soil watering by polluted water is being implemented or The objective estimation of the environmental haz-
planned. In such cases, the use of waters containing ard of chemicals must incorporate the assessment of

WATER RESOURCES Vol. 31 No. 5 2004
506 OSTROUMOV

sublethal effects [47] and the effect of these substances Some biological effects described or quantitatively
on the self-purification capacity of ecosystems [22– characterized above are sublethal or subtoxic. The
35, 46], where the latter should be interpreted wider obtained results demonstrate the potential environmen-
than just the processes effected by microorganisms. tal hazard of the effect of sublethal concentrations of
synthetic surfactants and the physiological and behav-
A system of criteria, taking into account various ioral responses they can cause in organisms, which is in
[18, 20–22, 45–48, 55, 57] effects of pollutants, includ- agreement with the results of studying other xenobiot-
ing sublethal ones is required. The author thinks it ics [46, 47].
appropriate to suggest for consideration and possible
use a four-link concept of the system level–block anal- Some procedures used by the author to assess the
ysis of the potential environmental hazard of the biological activity of chemicals have been tested on
anthropogenic impact on the biota. The procedure synthetic surfactants and represent an alternative to the
should include the analysis of anthropogenic distur- most frequently used methods of biotesting of toxic
bances at the level of individual and population substances on animals. Testing on germs and testing
changes, aggregated parameters (for example, aggre- based on the characteristic of filterer functional activity
gate characteristics of total production and biomass of is the most detailed presentation of the modified and
organism groups), the integrity and stability of the eco- tested procedure [33]. The testing of all classes of syn-
system, and the contribution of the ecosystem to the thetic surfactants on germs or testing of nonionic sur-
biospheric processes. The notions essential for this con- factants, cationic surfactants, and synthetic detergents
cept were developed and substantiated in [22–39, 50–54]. on mollusks virtually have not been used to character-
The use of this concept as a basis for a classification ized the substances described above and some other.
scheme introduces additional systematization and order New methodological approaches for biotesting have
in the analysis of factual data on the anthropogenic been developed and improved (a morphogenetic index
impact on organisms. characterizing the conventional mean length, testing
based on the rhizoderma disturbance response, and spe-
This concept can be used for solving problems cific modifications of measurements of the effect on the
requiring the determination of specific numerical val- efficiency of filtration activity). This extended the vali-
ues of the critical (environmentally admissible) loads dation of the set of instruments used to assess the bio-
onto ecosystems, that is, for quantitative assessment of logical activity of chemicals of the classes mentioned
“the input into the habitat of one or several pollutants above.
that have no adverse impact on most sensitive compo-
nents of the ecosystem (according to the present-day The environmental hazard of a pollutant should be
knowledge)” [18]. Within the framework of the latter assessed based on an approach that takes into account
group of problems, the concept of the level–block anal- the diversity of the biological effects involved. In addi-
ysis can be applied at the stage designated as “the diag- tion to the conventional estimates based on the death
nostics of the state of ecosystems and the substantiation rate within certain period [46], approaches based on
of most informative criteria of the state of organisms, recording other types of impact on organisms [22, 26,
populations, and communities,” and at the final assess- 27, 33, 47] are also of use. The different effects of TKh-
ment of “the critical (admissible) loads, that is, the vol- 100 surfactant on representatives of successive links of
umes of pollutants entering water objects” [18]. The the trophic chain—plankton (Synechococcus sp.,
obtained results and the developed notions can be used Hyphomanas sp.) and benthic filter feeders (Mytilus
to improve the system of assessing the potential hazard edulis, M. galloprovincialis, Crassostrea gigal, Unio
of the effect of chemicals [46], as well as in the environ- sp.)—enabled the establishment of the potential hazard
mental monitoring and forecasting and for environmen- of anthropogenic generation of environmental disbal-
tal expert evaluation. The relatively high tolerance of ances [29]. Surfactants had an effect on both planktonic
angiosperms to synthetic surfactants can be used in organisms and on benthic filter feeders, which use the
phytoremediation [24]. former as a food resource. The filtration activity of the
latter was more sensitive to surfactants than the growth
of planktonic organisms—at relatively small surfactant
ON NEW METHODOLOGICAL APPROACHES, concentrations, the efficiency of mollusk filtration
CONCEPTS, AND GENERALIZATIONS activity notably decreased. The experimental results
demonstrate the potential hazard of the situation when
Taking into account the obtained results, a concept the decrease in the withdrawal of planktonic organisms
is developed that the aquatic biota as an ecosystem from water by consumers is not compensated for by an
block, including not only microbiota, but also macro- adequate decrease in their growth. Moreover, under
biota, is a labile and vulnerable component of the water certain conditions, surfactant-containing substances
self-purification system [23]. The prevention of the (synthetic detergents) can stimulate alga growth [1, 12].
anthropogenic reduction in the self-purification poten- Thus, the different effect of pollutants on the organisms
tial of aquatic ecosystems is a necessary condition of at successive trophic levels can create a potential haz-
stable utilization of water ecosystem resources. ard of disbalance in trophic chains [29–32].

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THE EFFECT OF SYNTHETIC SURFACTANTS ON THE HYDROBIOLOGICAL MECHANISMS 507

NATURE PROTECTION PRIORITIES impacts on different trophic levels of an ecosystem,
AND RECOMMENDATIONS, SOLUTION enhanced eutrophication as a result of reduced regula-
OF APPLIED PROBLEMS tory potential of the consumers.
The system of priorities used as a basis for ranking The new results demonstrate the need for a more
substances according to their environmental hazard adequate interpretation of some notions in the environ-
should be revised, and a more adequate system for the mental legislation. Thus, the notion of the damage to
classification of pollutants should be developed. We the environment, ecosystems, and living resources,
propose to use the approaches involving the analysis of used in the environmental legislation, cannot be inter-
the potential hazard each pollutant presents for the pro- preted adequately unless, in addition to other kinds of
cesses of ecosystem self-purification, transport of mat- damage, it will include the derangement of the capabil-
ter and energy over the trophic network, dynamic bal- ity of organisms and ecosystems for water self-purifica-
ance between the interacting species, and the informa- tion, in particular, the derangement of the capacity to
tion flows in each ecosystem and between them. The filter water with a normal rate. The laws, the interpreta-
established biological effects of xenobiotics are used to tion and implementation of which require maximally
show that a generalized four-link level–block concept accurate interpretation of the notion of the environmen-
can be used for the analysis of the environmental hazard tal damage or damage to an ecosystem and living
of the anthropogenic impact on ecosystems [22–24]. resources, are, for example, the Federal Laws “On the
Environmental Expert Evaluation,” “On the Animal
Underestimation of sublethal effects and differential World,” and “On the Continental Shelf of the Russian
biological activity of xenobiotics (e.g., synthetic sur- Federation.”
factants), associated with their effect on different spe-
cies, can cause errors in forecasting the consequences In [20] attention was drawn to the role of chemical
of the anthropogenic stress in ecosystems. This deter- and biochemical factors in the stabilization and destabi-
mines proposals for planning works aimed at studying lization of the ecological equilibrium. Studies of the
the hydrobiological aspects of global changes, namely biological effects of synthetic surfactants, in particular,
the ecological mechanisms controlling the bio- their effect on the processes that are of importance for
geochemical flows of carbon [14, 56], as well as con- water self-purification and for maintaining the stability
sumption and retention of CO2 and Corg by aquatic eco- of aquatic ecosystems, yielded new data for the analysis
systems. of anthropogenic destabilization of environmental
equilibrium.
The author has already mentioned that in some
cases, synthetic surfactants can be even more hazardous The application domain of the results obtained and
pollutants than they have been supposed to be [21]. The the notions derived from them includes the diagnostics
amount of synthetic surfactants entering the environ- of the state of an ecosystem, the evaluation of the criti-
ment is considerable and still growing (depending on cal (admissible) loads, environmental expert evalua-
the class of the synthetic surfactants) by 2–5%. The tion, monitoring, and forecasting, which are necessary
range of the biological effects caused by synthetic sur- for the sustainable use of bioresources and their sus-
factants is wide and embraces virtually all major blocks tainable development [27, 32]. The materials of this
and trophic levels in aquatic ecosystems [27, 38]. It also study can also be used for scientific support and sub-
incorporates distortion in the behavior of organisms as stantiation of measures for preventing emergencies that
well as in the processes contributing to water self-puri- are due to large-scale environmental pollution.
fication. The decomposition of many synthetic surfac- The collected facts and developed notions [51] tes-
tants in the course of microbial oxidation and biodegra- tify that additional attention should be paid to the
dation is very slow [43, 55]. Not only the synthetic sur- potential ecological hazard and environmental damage
factants themselves, but also the products of their caused by irrational use of synthetic surfactants, which
biodegradation (as was shown for ionic surfactants, results in pollution of water bodies; more energetic
such as alkylphenols and their derivatives) exhibit per- measures should be taken to control and reduce this
sistence and high bioaccumulation coefficients and, type of pollution; the rank of synthetic surfactants in the
among other negative effects, have an estrogenic effect system of nature-protection priorities should be raised.
on the biota [27]. Thus, in some cases, synthetic surfac- The established vulnerability of filter-feeding
tants can be more hazardous environmental pollutants hydrobionts to sublethal concentrations of pollutants,
than they were assumed to be before. This should be including synthetic surfactants, emphasizes the impor-
taken into account in improving and modifying the sys- tance of maintaining the proper level of the functional
tem of nature-protection priorities. activity of this group of hydrobionts in aquatic ecosys-
New types of hazard associated with the effect of tems subject to anthropogenic stress. One of the prereq-
environmental chemical pollution were recognized in uisites for maintaining of water quality [24, 37], con-
[30–32, 34, 35]: the disruption of the pellagial–benthal servation of hydrobiont habitats, and hence the preser-
interaction in aquatic ecosystems, disturbance of the vation of the biodiversity of all inhabitants of the
ecological remediation (ecological reparation) of water aquatic environment as a whole is the creation and
quality in water bodies, synecological summation of maintenance of conditions required for normal and suf-

WATER RESOURCES Vol. 31 No. 5 2004
508 OSTROUMOV

ficiently high level of functional activity of the block of improved (it is proposed to raise the priority of syn-
aquatic ecosystem that is represented by filter feeders. thetic surfactants).
The maintenance of the filtration activity of filter feeder It is recommended that the biological activity of
populations should be among the aims of the nature- chemicals be assessed by an improved biotesting
protection regime of water bodies and water areas in method based on the proposed and tested morphoge-
reserves, including special hydrobiological and mala- netic characteristic, which integrates information on
cological reserves and other types of protected territo- the germination of seeds and the rate of germ elonga-
ries and water areas [36]. tion (an integral morphogenetic characteristic—the
conventional mean length of germs). A new method of
biotesting based on the effect of inhibition of root fibril
CONCLUSIONS formation, revealed for the first time, was developed.
Autotrophic and heterotrophic hydrobionts and An experimental substantiation was given to the
other organisms are used to establish and characterize potential environmental significance of the effect
the biological effects in an aquatic medium containing caused by the influence of synthetic surfactants on
synthetic surfactants, i.e., inhibition of the growth of hydrobionts and the relationship between these effects
diatoms Thalassiosira pseudonana (Hustedt) Hasle et and the hazard of anthropogenic impact on the pro-
Heimdal and euglena; derangement of the growth and cesses of water self-purification. Therefore, the preser-
development of angiosperms, including inhibition of vation of the self-purification potential of water bodies
the extension of plant germs (Sinapis alba L., Fagopy- is impossible without additional efforts aimed at the
rum seculentum Moench, Lepidium sativum L., Oryza reduction of damage to hydrobionts and ecosystems
sativa L., and others), and the growth of aquatic macro- because of pollution of water bodies by synthetic sur-
phytes (Pistia stratiotes L.). It was found that the mor- factants and substances containing them. It is proposed
phogenetic processes in rhizoderm, which lead to the to consider this notion when formulating the hydrobio-
formation of root fibrils, are deranged; the growth of logical priorities for sustainable development, environ-
marine bacteria (prostecobacteria Hyphomonas sp.) is mental expert assessment, preservation of biodiversity,
inhibited, the behavior of annelidas Hirudo medicinalis and the utilization of bioresources. It may be predicted
L.; and other effects. that new examples of similar effects that synthetic sur-
Experiments allowed the establishment of a previ- factants, compounds containing them, and other chem-
ously unknown ability of ionic and non-ionic synthetic icals have on organisms will be found in the future.
surfactants and mixtures containing them to reduce the A bilateral cause-and-effect relationship exists
filtration activity of mollusks, which manifests itself between the maintaining of water quality and preserva-
when synthetic surfactants and preparations containing tion of biodiversity in water bodies. Studying the filtra-
them affect mollusk organisms. The result is a lower tion activity of hydrobionts as a labile function of
rate of the observed withdrawal of a mixture of mono- aquatic organisms gives a new indication of the fact that
cellular organisms by water-filtrating mollusks [22–37, the preservation of biodiversity of hydrobionts and their
50]. This property was proved by the author in a series functional activity is an important prerequisite of main-
of experiments with marine and freshwater mollusks taining water quality [37].
subject to the effect of aquatic solutions of synthetic The notions, generalizations, and recommendations
surfactants (anionic, non-anionic, and cationic) con- formulated in this paper are mostly applicable both to
ducted for studying the effect of synthetic surfactants freshwater and marine ecosystems.
on the activity of marine and freshwater mollusks
(Mytilus edulis L., M. galoprovincialis Lamarck; Cras-
sostrea gigas Thunberg; Unio tumidus Philipsson; U. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
pictorum L.) [22–37, 50–54]. The author is grateful to V.D. Fedorov, T.I. Moiseenko,
A conceptual approach based on a structured system E.V. Venitsianov, A.G. Kocharyan, B.M. Dolgonosov
of analysis of the potential hazard due to the effect of (WPI RAS) for discussion of problems relating to water
chemicals was proposed for assessing the potential quality, L.I. Shpitonova, E.F. Zhukova, G. Widdous
environmental hazard to hydrobionts of synthetic sur- (Institute of Open Society, MacArthur Foundation),
factants and other chemicals. This system incorporates European Environmental Organization, Plymouth
the assessment of the danger of disturbance of aquatic Marine Laboratory, Institute of Biology of Southern
biota at four levels: individual and population changes, Seas of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine
aggregated parameters, integrity and stability of the for their support during the implementation of some
ecosystem, the contribution of the ecosystem to bio- phases of this study.
spheric processes [48].
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