OPEN PloS one | 18 Mar 2016
C Wang, X Lin, L Li and S Lin
Glyphosate is a globally popular herbicide to kill weeds and its wide applications may lead to accumulation in coastal oceans as a source of phosphorus (P) nutrient or growth inhibitor of phytoplankton. We studied the physiological effects of glyphosate on fourteen species representing five major coastal phytoplankton phyla (haptophyta, bacillariophyta, dinoflagellata, raphidophyta, and chlorophyta). Based on growth responses to different concentrations of glyphosate under contrasting dissolved inorganic phosphorus (DIP) conditions, we found that phytoplankton species could be classified into five groups. Group I (Emiliania huxleyi, Skeletonema costatum, Phaeodactylum tricornutum) could utilize glyphosate as sole P-source to support growth in axenic culture, but in the presence of DIP, they were inhibited by both 36-μM and 360-μM glyphosate. Group II (Karenia mikimotoi, Prorocentrum minimum, Dunaliella tertiolecta, Symbiodinium sp., Heterosigma akashiwo and Alexandrium catenella) could not utilize glyphosate as sole P-source to support growth, and in the presence of DIP growth was not affected by 36-μM but inhibited by 360-μM glyphosate. Glyphosate consistently enhanced growth of Group III (Isochrysis galbana) and inhibited Group IV (Thalassiosira weissflogii, Thalassiosira pseudonana and Chattonella marina) regardless of DIP condition. Group V (Amphidinium carterae) exhibited no measurable response to glyphosate regardless of DIP condition. This grouping is not congruent with the phylogenetic relationships of the phytoplankton species suggesting functional differentiation driven by environmental pressure. We conclude that glyphosate could be used as P-source by some species while is toxic to some other species and yet has no effects on others. The observed differential effects suggest that the continued use of glyphosate and increasing concentration of this herbicide in the coastal waters will likely exert significant impact on coastal marine phytoplankton community structure.
* Data courtesy of Altmetric.com