A plea for the use of copepods in freshwater ecotoxicology
Standard species used in ecological risk assessment are chosen based on their sensitivity to various toxicants and the ease of rearing them for laboratory experiments. However, this mostly overlooks the fact that species in the field that may employ variable life-history strategies, which may have consequences concerning the vulnerability of such species to exposure with contaminants. We aimed to highlight the importance of copepods in ecology and to underline the need to include freshwater copepods in ecotoxicology. We carried out a literature search on copepods and Daphnia in ecology and ecotoxicology to compare the recognition given to these two taxa in these respective fields. We also conducted a detailed analysis of the literature on copepods and their current role in ecotoxicology to characterize the scale and depth of the studies and the ecotoxicological information therein. The literature on the ecology of copepods outweighed that in ecotoxicology when compared with daphnids. Copepods, like other zoo-plankton, were found to be sensitive to toxicants and important organisms in aquatic ecosystems. The few studies that were conducted on the ecotoxicology of copepods mainly focused on marine copepods. However, very little is known about the ecotoxicology of freshwater copepods. To enable a more realistic risk higher tier environmental risk assessment, we recommend considering freshwater copepods as part of the hazard assessment process. This could include the establishment of laboratory experiments to analyse the effects of toxicants on copepods and the development of individual-based models to extrapolate effects across species and scenarios.