Experimental Studies with Nematodes in Ecotoxicology: An Overview

Arne Hägerbäumer, Sebastian Höss, Peter Heininger, Walter Traunspurger


With respect to their high abundances, their role as intermediaries between microorganisms and higher trophic levels, and their ubiquitous occurrence in all habitats, nematodes are of strong potential interest as environmental indicators. Ecotoxicological methods to evaluate the risk of anthropogenic pollutants on ecosystems require both in vitro and in vivo toxicity tests to investigate either mechanisms or pathways of toxicity and to set accurate toxicity thresholds. For this, the interest in nematodes as model organisms in ecotoxicology increased over the past few decades and existing appropriate experimental methods are reviewed in this manuscript. An overview of the various existing ecotoxicological tools for nematodes, ranging from molecular laboratory methods to experimental model ecosystem approaches, and their role as indicator organisms is given. The reviewed studies, approaches that range from species-based to community-based methods, reveal exciting possibilities for the future use of nematodes in ecotoxicological studies. Suitable ecotoxicological tools and ecological indices for nematodes should be integrated in weight-of-evidence approaches for assessing the ecological risk of contamination.

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