Karsten Liber


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Effects of in situ experimental selenium exposure on finescale dace (Phoxinus neogaeus) gut microbiome
Phillip J. Ankley, Stephanie D. Graves, Yuwei Xie, Abigail DeBofsky, Alana Weber, Markus Brinkmann, Vince Palace, Karsten Liber, Markus Hecker, David M. Janz, John P. Giesy
Environmental Research, Volume 212

Selenium (Se) is an environmental contaminant of global concern that can cause adverse effects in fish at elevated levels. Fish gut microbiome play essential roles in gastrointestinal function and host health and can be perturbed by environmental contaminants, including metals and metalloids. Here, an in-situ Se exposure of female finescale dace (Phoxinus neogaeus) using mesocosms was conducted to determine the impacts of Se accumulation on the gut microbiome and morphometric endpoints. Prior to this study, the gut microbiome of finescale dace, a widespread Cyprinid throughout North America, had not been characterized. Exposure to Se caused a hormetic response of alpha diversity of the gut microbiome, with greater diversity at the lesser concentration of 1.6 μg Se/L, relative to that of fish exposed to the greater concentration of 5.6 μg Se/L. Select gut microbiome taxa of fish were differentially abundant between aqueous exposure concentrations and significantly correlated with liver-somatic index (LSI). The potential effects of gut microbiome dysbiosis on condition of wild fish might be a consideration when assessing adverse effects of Se in aquatic environments. More research regarding effects of Se on field-collected fish gut microbiome and the potential adverse effects or benefits on the host is warranted.


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Spatial distribution of agricultural pesticide use and predicted wetland exposure in the Canadian Prairie Pothole Region
Egina Malaj, Karsten Liber, Christy A. Morrissey
Science of The Total Environment, Volume 718

Agricultural pest control products are a major cause of degradation of water quality and biodiversity loss worldwide. In the Canadian Prairie Pothole Region, the landscape is characterized by millions of ecologically important wetlands, but also large farm sizes and high agrochemical use. Despite the region's agricultural intensity, the spatial extent of pesticide use and likelihood of pesticides contaminating surface water has been poorly studied. Here, we estimated the pesticide use patterns for three main groups (herbicides, fungicides and insecticides) using the most recent (2015) pesticide use survey data and digital crop maps. Furthermore, we developed a Wetland Pesticide Occurrence Index (WPOI; 1 km2 resolution), to robustly estimate potential wetland exposure using spatially explicit data on pesticide use density, wetland density, precipitation and pesticide-specific physicochemical properties. In total, 39,236 metric tonnes of pesticides consisting of 94 active ingredients were applied to the Prairies in 2015. Herbicides had the highest density of use (24-183 kg/km2), followed by fungicides (0.4-23.8 kg/km2) and insecticides (0.4-3.6 kg/km2). Pesticide use differed by province; however, the major pesticides applied (e.g., glyphosate, prothioconazole, and thiamethoxam) were consistent across the region and were largely associated with wheat and canola crops. Although insecticides and fungicides had lower mass applied than herbicides, they had slightly higher overall WPOI scores. The predicted pesticide occurrence for insecticides and fungicides in wetlands was higher in the wetter central and eastern part of the Prairie region (WPOI = 0.6-1) compared to the drier western and southwestern part (WPOI = 0.1-0.6), suggesting that wetlands in much of Saskatchewan and southern Manitoba may be more vulnerable to higher and frequent contamination. Identifying crops, chemicals and landscapes with the greatest likelihood of pesticide contamination to wetlands will help prioritize future environmental monitoring programs and aid in assessing the ecological risk of specific pest control products in Canada's most agriculturally intensive region.


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Selenium oxyanion bioconcentration in natural freshwater periphyton
Blue E. Markwart, Karsten Liber, Yuwei Xie, Katherine Raes, Markus Hecker, David M. Janz, Lorne E. Doig
Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety, Volume 180

Selenium (Se) enrichment has been demonstrated to vary by several orders of magnitude among species of planktonic algae. This is a substantial source of uncertainty when modelling Se biodynamics in aquatic systems. In addition, Se bioconcentration data are largely lacking for periphytic species of algae, and for multi-species periphyton biofilms, adding to the challenge of modelling Se transfer in periphyton-based food webs. To better predict Se dynamics in periphyton dominated, freshwater ecosystems, the goal of this study was to assess the relative influence of periphyton community composition on the uptake of waterborne Se oxyanions. Naturally grown freshwater periphyton communities, sampled from five different water bodies, were exposed to environmentally relevant concentrations of selenite [Se(IV)] or selenate [Se(VI)] (nominal concentrations of 5 and 25 μg Se L-1) under similar, controlled laboratory conditions for a period of 8 days. Unique periphyton assemblages were derived from the five different field sites, as confirmed by light microscopy and targeted DNA sequencing of the plastid 23S rRNA gene in algae. Selenium accumulation demonstrated a maximum of 23.6-fold difference for Se(IV) enrichment and 2.1-fold difference for Se(VI) enrichment across the periphyton/biofilm assemblages tested. The assemblage from one field site demonstrated both high accumulation of Se(IV) and iron, and was subjected to additional experimentation to elucidate the mechanism(s) of Se accumulation. Selenite accumulation (at nominal concentrations of 5 and 25 μg Se L-1 and mean pH of 7.5 across all treatment replicates) was assessed in both unaltered and heat-killed periphyton, and in periphyton from the same site grown without light to exclude phototrophic organisms. Following an exposure length of 8 days, all periphyton treatments showed similar levels of Se accumulation, indicating that much of the apparent uptake of Se(IV) was due to non-biological processes (i.e., surface adsorption). The results of this study will help reduce uncertainty in the prediction of Se dynamics and food-chain transfer in freshwater environments. Further exploration of the ecological consequences of extracellular adsorption of Se(IV) to periphyton, rather than intracellular absorption, is recommended to further refine predictions related to Se biodynamics in freshwater food webs.


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Prairie water: a global water futures project to enhance the resilience of prairie communities through sustainable water management
Christopher Spence, Jared D. Wolfe, Colin J. Whitfield, Helen M. Baulch, N. B. Basu, Angela Bedard‐Haughn, Kenneth Belcher, Robert G. Clark, Grant Ferguson, Masaki Hayashi, Karsten Liber, J. McDonnell, Christy A. Morrissey, John W. Pomeroy, Maureen G. Reed, Graham Strickert
Canadian Water Resources Journal / Revue canadienne des ressources hydriques, Volume 44, Issue 2

‘I would walk to the end of the street and out over the prairie with the clickety grasshoppers bunging in arcs ahead of me and I could hear the hum and twang of the wind in the great prairie harp o...