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Chem Cent J. 2013 Mar 28;7(1):59. doi: 10.1186/1752-153X-7-59.

Use of enzymatic tools for biomonitoring inorganic pollution in aquatic sediments: a case study (Bor, Serbia).

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Department of Cellular and Molecular Biology, University of Medicine and Pharmacy "Victor Babes", 300041, E, Murgu, 2, Timisoara, Romania.



Sediment bacterial communities are key players in biogeochemical cycling of elements in the aquatic environment. Copper mining, smelting, and processing operations located in Bor area (Serbia) are major environmental hot spots in the lower Danube Basin and Western Balkans. In the present study, we evaluate the influence of trace element (TE) concentration in sediments and physico-chemical properties of water on sediment microbial communities in water streams adjacent to the Copper Smelter Complex Bor (RTB Bor, Serbia). The degree to which metabolic activities of bacterial biota inhabiting differently polluted sites is inhibited by inorganic pollution were compared using selected enzymatic bioindicators.


Cu, Zn, Pb, and As concentrations systematically exceeded the target values for metal loadings in aquatic sediments. Water electrical conductivity (WEC) followed the same pattern of spatial variation, irrespective of season. Interestingly, the most intense enzymatic activity occurred at the reference site although this site showed the greatest TE levels in aquatic sediments. Catalase activity (CA), potential dehydrogenase activity (PDA), actual dehydrogenase activity (ADA), urease activity (UA), and phosphatase activity (PA) in aquatic sediments displayed heterogeneous patterns of spatio-temporal variation. Inorganic pollution greatly affected CA, ADA, and PDA, but much less so UA and PA. Canonical correlation analysis showed that pH and WEC were the strongest determinants of enzymatic activity in bacterial biota, with the latter variable being reversely correlated with the enzymatic indicator of sediment quality (EISQ). The median values of EISQ increased with distance from the major sources of pollution. In addition, it was found that sites with different degrees of inorganic pollution can be appropriately classified by applying cluster analysis to EISQ, TE levels in sediments, and physico-chemical properties of water.


Because EISQ can precisely identify changes in overall enzymatic activity of sediment bacterial communities, this enzymatic bioindicator has a great potential for biomonitoring the current status of inorganic pollution in aquatic ecosystems.

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