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Helgoland Marine Research

Open Access

Fate and effects of cadmium in an experimental marine ecosystem

  • H. von Westernhagen1,
  • V. Dethlefsen2,
  • H. Rosenthal1,
  • G. Fürstenberg1 and
  • J. Klinckmann1
Helgoländer wissenschaftliche Meeresuntersuchungen31:BF02189495


Two recirculated marine seawater systems (capacities: 150 and 300 l) were used for the study on cadmium accumulation of biological filter sludge, by the musselMytilus edulis and the plaicePleuronectes platessa for a period of up to 300 days. In the contaminated system Cd concentrations varied from 2.5 to 7.0 μg/l with a mean of 4.6±1.15 μg/l (control: 1.04±0.46 μg/l). Accumulation of Cd by the filter sludge from the control system as well as from the contaminated system was significant. Mean concentrations of control-and contaminated sludge over the experimental period were 2.01±0.86 ng Cd/mg dry wt and 9.98±3.55 ng Cd/mg dry wt respectively. Accumulation of Cd byM. edulis both in the control and in the contaminated system was considerable. After 163 days of exposure the whole body burden of mussels rose from 0.3 ng Cd/mg dry wt to around 10 ng Cd/mg dry wt in the controls and to 70 ng Cd/mg dry wt in the contaminated systems. Accumulation of Cd byP. platessa was analysed in backbone, fins, gills, liver, muscle (fillet), otolith and skin (dorsal and ventral) over a period of 280 days. Elevated Cd contents of livers from control specimens were noticed after 200 days and reached 1.75 ng Cd/mg dry wt in liver. There was considerable accumulation in the liver (maximum values: 3.0 ng Cd/mg dry wt) and gills (6.0 ng Cd/mg dry wt) of specimens from the contaminated system, Cd contents of plaice exposed for identical periods of time were very variable. Growth of plaice living in the contaminated system was at times significantly slower than that of the control group. Of the three biological objects tested-filter sludge,M. edulis, P. platessa—the mussel seemed to be the most sensitive indicator of elevated Cd-concentrations, while the reaction of the plaice was slow and less distinct.


Waste WaterSludgeCadmiumWater PollutionExperimental Period