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Helgoland Marine Research

Open Access

Application of adenylate energy charge to problems of environmental impact assessment in aquatic organisms

  • A. M. Ivanovici1
Helgoländer Meeresuntersuchungen33:556


Various physiological and biochemical methods have been proposed for assessing the effects of environmental perturbation on aquatic organisms. The success of these methods as diagnostic tools has, however, been limited. This paper proposes that adenylate energy charge overcomes some of these limitations. The adenylate energy charge (AEC) is calculated from concentrations of adenine nucleotides ([ATP+½ADP]/[ATP+ADP+AMP]), and is a reflection of metabolic potential available to an organism. Several features of this method are: correlation of specific values with physiological condition or growth state, a defined range of values, fast response times and high precision. Several examples from laboratory and field experiments are given to demonstrate these features. The test organisms used (mollusc species) were exposed to a variety of environmental perturbations, including salinity reduction, hydrocarbons and low doses of heavy metal. The studies performed indicate that the energy charge may be a useful measure in the assessment of environmental impact. Its use is restricted, however, as several limitations exist which need to be fully evaluated. Further work relating values to population characteristics of multicellular organisms needs to be completed before the method can become a predictive tool for management.