Northwest Fisheries Science Center

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Document Type: Journal Article
Center: NWFSC
Document ID: 8580
Title: Effects of Salinity on Olfactory Toxicity and Behavioral Responses of Juvenile Salmonids From Copper
Author: Frank Sommers, E. M. Mudrock, J. S. Labenia, D. H. Baldwin
Publication Year: 2016
Journal: Aquatic Toxicology
Volume: 175
Pages: 260-268
Keywords: copper,avoidance,olfaction,behavior,structure

Dissolved copper is one of the more pervasive and toxic constituents of stormwater runoff and is commonly found in stream, estuary, and coastal marine habitats of juvenile salmon. While stormwater runoff does not usually carry copper concentrations high enough to result in acute toxicity, exposure to sublethal concentrations of copper has been shown to both impair olfactory function and alter behavior in various species in freshwater. To compare these results to other environments that salmon are likely to encounter, experiments were conducted to evaluate the effects of salinity on the impairment of olfactory function and avoidance due to copper exposure.  Copper has been repeatedly shown to diminish or eliminate the olfactory response to the amino acid, L-serine in freshwater using electro-olfactogram (EOG) techniques. The olfactory responses of both freshwater-phase and seawater-phase coho and seawater-phase Chinook salmon, were tested in freshwater or seawater, depending on phase, and freshwater-phase coho at an intermediate salinity of 10 ‰. Both 10 ‰ salinity and full strength seawater protected against the effects of 50 µg copper/L. In addition to impairing olfactory response, copper has also been shown to alter salmon behavior by causing an avoidance response. To determine whether copper will cause avoidance behavior at different salinities, experiments were conducted using a multi-chambered experimental tank. The circular tank was divided into six segments by water currents so that copper could be contained within one segment yet fish could move freely between them. The presence of individual fish in each of the segments was counted before and after introduction of dissolved copper (< 20 µg/L) to one of the segments in both freshwater and seawater. To address whether use of preferred habitat is altered by the presence of copper, experiments were also conducted with a submerged structural element. The presence of sub-lethal levels of dissolved copper altered the behavior of juvenile Chinook salmon in both freshwater and seawater. While increased salinity is protective against loss of olfactory function from dissolved copper, avoidance could potentially affect behaviors beneficial to growth, survival and reproductive success.


The toxic effects of copper on olfactory physiology and avoidance behavior in different salinities. 

Theme: Habitats to Support Sustainable Fisheries and Recovered Populations
Foci: Assess the impacts of toxic chemicals and other pollutants across biological scales, and identify pollution reduction strategies that improve habitat quality.