Effect of an antidepressant on aquatic ecosystems in the presence of microplastics: A mesocosm study

Nandini Vasantha Raman, Berte M. Gebreyohanes Belay, Josie South, Tarryn L. Botha, Josephine Pegg, Dumisani Khosa, Lubabalo Mofu, Gina Walsh, Martine S. Jordaan, Albert A. Koelmans, Sven Teurlincx, Nico R. Helmsing, Nina de Jong, Ellen van Donk, Miquel Lürling, Victor Wepener, Tânia V. Fernandes, Lisette N. de Senerpont Domis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Emerging pollutants, such as pharmaceuticals and microplastics have become a pressing concern due to their widespread presence and potential impacts on ecological systems. To assess the ecosystem-level effects of these pollutants within a multi-stressor context, we simulated real-world conditions by exposing a near-natural multi-trophic aquatic food web to a gradient of environmentally relevant concentrations of fluoxetine and microplastics in large mesocosms over a period of more than three months. We measured the biomass and abundance of different trophic groups, as well as ecological functions such as nutrient availability and decomposition rate. To explore the mechanisms underlying potential community and ecosystem-level effects, we also performed behavioral assays focusing on locomotion parameters as a response variable in three species: Daphnia magna (zooplankton prey), Chaoborus flavicans larvae (invertebrate pelagic predator of zooplankton) and Asellus aquaticus (benthic macroinvertebrate), using water from the mesocosms. Our mesocosm results demonstrate that presence of microplastics governs the response in phytoplankton biomass, with a weak non-monotonic dose-response relationship due to the interaction between microplastics and fluoxetine. However, exposure to fluoxetine evoked a strong non-monotonic dose-response in zooplankton abundance and microbial decomposition rate of plant material. In the behavioral assays, the locomotion of zooplankton prey D. magna showed a similar non-monotonic response primarily induced by fluoxetine. Its predator C. flavicans, however, showed a significant non-monotonic response governed by both microplastics and fluoxetine. The behavior of the decomposer A. aquaticus significantly decreased at higher fluoxetine concentrations, potentially leading to reduced decomposition rates near the sediment. Our study demonstrates that effects observed upon short-term exposure result in more pronounced ecosystem-level effects following chronic exposure.

Original languageEnglish
Article number124439
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sept 2024


  • Aquatic ecosystem functioning
  • Fluoxetine
  • Microplastics
  • Multiple stressors
  • Non-monotonic responses
  • Pharmaceutical

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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