Microplastics result from fragmentation of plastic debris or are released to the environment as pre-production pellets or components of consumer and industrial products. In the oceans, they contribute to the ‘great garbage patches’. They are ingested by many organisms, from protozoa to baleen whales, and pose a threat to the aquatic fauna. Although as much as 80% of marine debris originates from land, little attention was given to the role of rivers as debris pathways to the sea. Worldwide, not a single great river has yet been studied for the surface microplastics load over its length. We report the abundance and composition of microplastics at the surface of the Rhine, one of the largest European rivers. Measurements were made at 11 locations over a stretch of 820 km. Microplastics were found in all samples, with 892,777 particles km (-2) on average. In the Rhine-Ruhr metropolitan area, a peak concentration of 3.9 million particles km (-2) was measured. Microplastics concentrations were diverse along and across the river, reflecting various sources and sinks such as waste water treatment plants, tributaries and weirs. Measures should be implemented to avoid and reduce the pollution with anthropogenic litter in aquatic ecosystems.
SUMMARY Species introduced into new areas often show a reduction in parasite and genetic diversity associated to the limited number of founding individuals. In this study, we compared microsatellite and parasite diversity in both native (lower Danube) and introduced populations of 4 Ponto-Caspian gobies, including those (1) introduced from within the same river system (middle Danube; Neogobius kessleri and N. melanostomus), and (2) introduced from a different river system (River Vistula; N. fluviatilis and N. gymnotrachelus). Microsatellite data confirmed the lower Danube as a source population for gobies introduced into the middle Danube. Both native and introduced (same river system) populations of N. kessleri and N. melanostomus had comparable parasite species richness and microsatellite diversity, possibly due to multiple and/or continual migration/introduction of new individuals and the acquisition of local parasites. Reduced parasite species richness and microsatellite diversity were observed in introduced (different river system) populations in the Vistula. A low number of colonists found for N. fluviatilis and N. gymnotrachelus in the Vistula potentially resulted in reduced introduction of parasite species. Insufficient adaptation of the introduced host to local parasite fauna, together with introduction into an historically different drainage system, may also have contributed to the reduced parasite fauna.
Biodiversity patterns are inherently complex and difficult to comprehensively assess. Yet, deciphering shifts in species composition through time and space are crucial for efficient and successful management of ecosystem services, as well as for predicting change. To better understand species diversity patterns, Germany participated in the Global Malaise Trap Program, a world-wide collection program for arthropods using this sampling method followed by their DNA barcode analysis. Traps were deployed at two localities: “Nationalpark Bayerischer Wald” in Bavaria, the largest terrestrial Natura 2000 area in Germany, and the nature conservation area Landskrone, an EU habitats directive site in the Rhine Valley. Arthropods were collected from May to September to track shifts in the taxonomic composition and temporal succession at these locations.
The Rhine catchment in Switzerland has been transformed by a chain of hydroelectric power stations. We addressed the impact of fragmentation on the genetic structure of fish populations by focusing on the European chub (Squalius cephalus). This fish species is not stocked and copes well with altered habitats, enabling an assessment of the effects of fragmentation per se. Using microsatellites, we genotyped 2133 chub from 47 sites within the catchment fragmented by 37 hydroelectric power stations, two weirs and the Rhine Falls. The shallow genetic population structure reflected drainage topology and was affected significantly by barriers to migration. The effect of power stations equipped with fishpasses on genetic differentiation was detectable, albeit weaker than that of man-made barriers without fishpasses. The Rhine Falls as the only long-standing natural obstacle (formed 14 000 to 17 000 years ago) also had a strong effect. Man-made barriers also exacerbated the upstream decrease in allelic diversity in the catchment, particularly when lacking fishpasses. Thus, existing fishpasses do have the desired effect of mitigating fragmentation, but barriers still reduce population connectivity in a fish that traverses fishpasses better than many other species. Less mobile species are likely to be affected more severely.
Decreasing body size has been proposed as a universal response to increasing temperatures. The physiology behind the response is well established for ectotherms inhabiting aquatic environments: as higher temperatures decrease the aerobic capacity, individuals with smaller body sizes have a reduced risk of oxygen deprivation. However, empirical evidence of this response at the scale of communities and ecosystems is lacking for marine fish species. Here we show that over a 40-year period six of eight commercial fish species in the North Sea examined underwent concomitant reductions in asymptotic body size with the synchronous component of the total variability coinciding with a 1-2°C increase in water temperature. Smaller body sizes decreased the yield-per-recruit of these stocks by an average of 23%. Although it is not possible to ascribe these phenotypic changes unequivocally to temperature, four aspects support this interpretation: (i) the synchronous trend was detected across species varying in their life history and life style, (ii) the decrease coincided with the period of increasing temperature, (iii) the direction of the phenotypic change is consistent with physiological knowledge and (iv) no cross-species synchrony was detected in other species-specific factors potentially impacting growth. Our findings support a recent model-derived prediction that fish size will shrink in response to climate-induced changes in temperature and oxygen. The smaller body sizes being projected for the future are already detectable in the North Sea. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
Discovered on the southern margin of the North Sea Basin, “Phoca” vitulinoides represents one of the best-known extinct species of Phocidae. However, little attention has been given to the species ever since its original 19th century description. Newly discovered material, including the most complete specimen of fossil Phocidae from the North Sea Basin, prompted the redescription of the species. Also, the type material of “Phoca” vitulinoides is lost.
Antibiotic resistance is a worldwide problem and inappropriate prescriptions are a cause. Especially among children, prescriptions tend to be high. It is unclear how they differ in bordering regions. This study therefore examined the antibiotic prescription prevalence among children in primary care between northern Netherlands and north-west of Germany.
Phytoplankton primary production is at the base of the marine food web; changes in primary production have direct or indirect effects on higher trophic levels, from zooplankton organisms to marine mammals and seabirds. Here we present a new time-series on gross primary production in the North Sea, from 1988 to 2013, estimated using in situ measurements of chlorophyll and underwater light. This shows that recent decades have seen a significant decline in primary production in the North Sea. Moreover, primary production differs in magnitude between six hydrodynamic regions within the North Sea. Sea surface warming and reduced riverine nutrient inputs are found to be likely contributors to the declining levels of primary production. In turn, significant correlations are found between observed changes in primary production and the dynamics of higher trophic levels including (small) copepods and a standardised index of fish recruitment, averaged over 7 stocks of high commercial significance in the North Sea. Given positive (bottom-up) associations between primary production, zooplankton abundance and fish stock recruitment, this study provides strong evidence that if the decline in primary production continues, knock-on effects upon the productivity of fisheries are to be expected unless these fisheries are managed effectively and cautiously. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
We augment discussions about the Good Environmental Status of the North Sea by developing two extreme visions and assessing their societal benefits. One vision (‘Then’) assumes restoration of benthic functioning; we contend that trawling had already degraded the southern North Sea a century ago. Available information is used to speculate about benthic functioning in a relatively undisturbed southern North Sea. The second vision (‘Now’) draws on recent benthic functioning. The supply of five ecosystem services, supported by benthic functioning, is discussed. ‘Then’ offers confidence in the sustainable supply of diverse services but restoration of past function is uncertain and likely to be paired with costs, notably trawling restraints. ‘Now’ delivers known and valued services but sustained delivery is threatened by, for example, climate change. We do not advocate either vision. Our purpose is to stimulate debate about what society wants, and might receive, from the future southern North Sea.
Leptospirosis is a global zoonotic disease. Although important for the assessment of the burden of leptospirosis, data on the duration of the illness and the occurrence of post-leptospirosis complaints are not well documented. Hence the main objective of this study was to estimate the occurrence of persistent complaints and duration of hospital stay in laboratory confirmed leptospirosis patients in the Netherlands during 1985 to 2010. Additionally, several risk factors potentially impacting on the occurrence of post-leptospirosis complaints were investigated.