Artificial substrata to assess ecological and ecotoxicological responses in river biofilms: Use and recommendations

MethodsX. 2023 Feb 22;10:102089. doi: 10.1016/j.mex.2023.102089. eCollection 2023.


River biofilms are biological consortia of autotrophs and heterotrophs colonizing most solid surfaces in rivers. Biofilm composition and biomass differ according to the environmental conditions, having different characteristics between systems and even between river habitats. Artificial substrata (AS) are an alternative for in situ or laboratory experiments to handle the natural variability of biofilms. However, specific research goals may require decisions on colonization time or type of substrata. Substrata properties (i.e., texture, roughness, hydrophobicity) and the colonization period and site are selective factors of biofilm characteristics. Here we describe the uses of artificial substrata in the assessment of ecological and ecotoxicological responses and propose a decision tree for the best use of artificial substrata in river biofilm studies. We propose departing from the purpose of the study to define the necessity of obtaining a realistic biofilm community, from which it may be defined the colonization time, the colonization site, and the type of artificial substratum. Having a simple or mature biofilm community should guide our decisions on the colonization time and type of substrata to be selected for the best use of AS in biofilm studies. Tests involving contaminants should avoid adsorbing materials while those ecologically oriented may use any AS mimicking those substrata occurring in the streambed.•We review the utilization of different artificial substrata to colonize biofilm in river ecology and ecotoxicology.•We propose a decision tree to guide on selecting the appropriate artificial substrata and colonization site and duration.•Type of artificial substrata (material, size, shape…) and colonization duration are to be decided according to the specific purpose of the study.

PMID:36915862 | PMC:PMC10006700 | DOI:10.1016/j.mex.2023.102089


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