Assessing the effects of chloride exposure on aquatic organisms

Science Center Objects

Increased salinization of freshwater systems is a growing concern, and can be attributed to a variety of factors including climate change, land-use change, agricultural practices, road de-icing, and brines released from fossil fuel extraction.  Effects of increased salinization on aquatic organisms is little understood and may be vastly different among species and among different life stages. 

Researchers at the USGS Northern Appalachian Research Laboratory are using a combined laboratory, physiology, and genomics approach to investigate these effects in several key freshwater species including brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis), American eel (Anguilla rostrata), eastern elliptio mussel (Elliptio complanata), and the federally listed northern riffleshell mussel (Epioblasma torulosa rangiana).  Due to freshwater mussels’ complex life cycle, studies are being conducted with adults as well as more sensitive juvenile and larval stages.  Studies allow insight into the mechanisms involved in a species’ response to increased salinization, determine environmental conditions that elicit a biologically relevant response, and develop meaningful biomarkers for field application and use in management.

Related publications:

Blakeslee, C. J., Galbraith, H. S., Roberston, L. S., & St. John White, B. (2013). The effects of salinity exposure on multiple life stages of a common freshwater mussel, Elliptio complanata. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, 32(12), 2849-2854. 

Cornman, R. S., Robertson, L. S., Galbraith, H., & Blakeslee, C. (2014). Transcriptomic Analysis of the Mussel <italic>Elliptio complanata</italic> Identifies Candidate Stress-Response Genes and an Abundance of Novel or Noncoding Transcripts. PLoS ONE, 9(11), e112420. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0112420.

Robertson, L. S., Galbraith, H. S., Iwanowicz, D., Blakeslee, C. J., & Cornman, R. S. (2017). RNA sequencing analysis of transcriptional change in the freshwater mussel Elliptio complanata after environmentally relevant sodium chloride exposure. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, 36(9), 2352-2366. doi:10.1002/etc.3774.

Iwanowicz, L. R., Iwanowicz, D. D., Adams, C. R., Galbraith, H., Aunins, A., & Cornman, R. S. (2017). Draft Genome Sequence of a Picorna-Like Virus Associated with Gill Tissue in Clinically Normal Brook Trout, Salvelinus fontinalis. Genome Announcements, 5(41), e01022-01017. doi:10.1128/genomeA.01022-17.

Galbraith, H. S., Iwanowicz, D., Spooner, D. E., Iwanowicz, L. R., Keller, D. H., Zelanko, P. M., & Adams, C. R. (2018). Exposure to synthetic hydraulic fracturing waste influences the mucosal bacterial community structure of the brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) epidermis. AIMS Microbiology, 4(3), 413-427.

Keller, D. H., Zelanko, P. M., Gagnon, J. E., Horwitz, R. J., Galbraith, H. S., & Velinsky, D. J. (2018). Linking otolith microchemistry and surface water contamination from natural gas mining. Environmental Pollution, 240, 457-465.

Adult northern riffleshell mussel (Epioblasma torulosa rangiana)

Adult northern riffleshell mussels (Epioblasma torulosa rangiana) experimentally exposed to increased chloride levels.

(Credit: Heather S. Galbraith, USGS Leetown Science Center. Public domain.)

Growth monitoring of juvenile northern riffleshell mussels (Epioblasma torulosa rangiana)

Digital pictures were taken each week of juvenile northern riffleshell mussel (Epioblasma torulosa rangiana) to monitor growth throughout experimental exposure to chloride.  Individual’s length and width were measured using a computer software program and compared among chloride treatments to determine if chloride exposure impacted juvenile mussel growth.

(Credit: Jeffrey Cole, USGS Leetown Science Center. Public domain.)

Juvenile brook trout

Brook trout were exposed to low concentrations of synthetic brine from the natural gas extraction process to evaluate the effects of on their survival, physiology, and body condition. 

(Credit: Kristin Boggs, USGS Leetown Science Center. Public domain.)