Demonstration of an ecotoxicological effect of raised toxic metal bioavailabilities on benthic macroinvertebrate communities in contaminated freshwater streams typically requires the labour-intensive identification and quantification of such communities before the application of multivariate statistical analysis. A simpler approach is the use of accumulated trace metal concentrations in a metal-resistant biomonitor to define thresholds that indicate the presence of raised trace metal bioavailabilities causing ecotoxicological responses in populations of more metal-sensitive members of the community. We explore further the hypothesis that concentrations of toxic metals in larvae of species of the caddisfly genus Hydropsyche can be used to predict metal-driven ecotoxicological responses in more metal-sensitive mayflies, especially ephemerellid and heptageniid mayflies, in metal-contaminated rivers. Comparative investigation of two caddisflies, Hydropsyche siltalai and Hydropsyche angustipennis, from metal-contaminated rivers in Cornwall and Upper Silesia, Poland respectively, has provided preliminary evidence that this hypothesis is applicable across caddisfly species and contaminated river systems. Use of a combined toxic unit approach, relying on independent data sets, suggested that copper and probably also arsenic are the drivers of mayfly ecotoxicity in the River Hayle and the Red River in Cornwall, while cadmium, lead and zinc are the toxic agents in the Biala Przemsza River in Poland. This approach has great potential as a simple tool to detect the more subtle effects of mixed trace metal contamination in freshwater systems. An informed choice of suitable biomonitor extends the principle to different freshwater habitats over different ranges of severity of trace metal contamination.
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