Indirect effects of antibiotics in the aquatic environment: A laboratory study on detritivore food selection behavior
With regard to possible detrimental effects of human and veterinary antibiotics in the aquatic environment, most research in this field assesses direct impacts of pharmaceuticals on vertebrate or invertebrate test organisms. Another related area of concern is the possible development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria by introducing antimicrobials into the aquatic compartment. However, indirect effects of antibacterials on the trophic cascade have rarely been investigated. This study contributes with an example of how indirect effects of antibiotics on leaf litter decay can be measured and to what extent shredder organisms might be affected. Results from food-selection experiments using Gammarus pulex (Amphipoda) demonstrated clear preferences for leaves conditioned in the absence versus those conditioned in the presence of two antibiotics, oxytetracycline and sulfadiazine. Although this result suggested that microbial and fungal colonisation during leaf litter conditioning might be adversely affected in the antibiotic-treated groups, analyses of total carbon and nitrogen content of conditioned leaf discs did not reveal differences among the treatments.