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J Environ Monit. 2010 Feb;12(2):500-7. doi: 10.1039/b908597a. Epub 2009 Oct 13.

Hydrobia ulvae imposex levels at Ria de Aveiro (NW Portugal) between 1998 and 2007: a counter-current bioindicator?

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CESAM & Department of Biology, University of Aveiro, 3810-193, Aveiro, Portugal.


Imposex expression in prosobranch gastropods has been widely used as a biomarker of tributyltin (TBT) pollution. Estuaries have been described as the most affected areas by this problem since they usually enclose the main TBT sources--ports, dockyards and marinas--resulting from the compound's application as a biocide in antifouling paints on ships. Using Hydrobia ulvae as a bioindicator, the current work addresses the most reliable methods to reduce the influence of critical variables, such as the animals' size, on imposex levels assessment for TBT pollution monitoring and presents its temporal trends from 1998 to 2007 in Ria de Aveiro (NW Portugal) to evaluate the effectiveness of recent legislation applied to reduce TBT environmental levels. H. ulvae imposex levels did not decrease in this estuarine system during the last decade despite the implementation of the EU Regulation No. 782/2003. Instead, there was a global significant increase in the percentage of females affected by imposex and a slight increase of the vas deferens sequence index (VDSI), contrasting with what has been described for other bioindicators in the same study area. These results show that different biology/ecology traits determine distinct routes of TBT uptake and/or bioaccumulation, pointing the importance of choosing the bioindicator depending on the compartment that is being monitored (sediment vs. water). Sediment ingestion as feeding habit is discussed and pointed as a reason to choose H. ulvae as a bioindicator of TBT pollution persistence in sediment. It is therefore predicted that the response of different prosobranch species around the world may diverge according to the compartment that is being monitored and that female masculinisation may not be completely eradicated in the near future due to TBT persistence in sediments.

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