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Groundwater ecology

Monitoring endocrine disruptors in surface waters of central Spain using chronic toxicity ostracod tests – a search for an innovative region-specific risk assessment (END-OSTRACOTOX)

SamplingOne of the principal examples of contaminants of emerging concern which are being discovered in surface- and ground-waters throughout Europe are endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs). EDCs are organic substances that may interfere with the endocrine system and are found in a wide range of products used in everyday life. Recently, there has been growing interest among the scientific community in testing and learning the potential risk ECDs may pose to both, human health and freshwater ecosystems, and even if the dangers are not yet fully understood, a direct association between exposure of EDCs and changes in the reproduction, development and growth of several organisms has been already demonstrated. Bisphenol A (BPA), a commercially important compound used in the production of polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins, is the most highly produced synthetic chemical in the world (> 3 million tons annually) with endocrine disruptive effects. The project aims are to establish a standardized protocols and to perform laboratory long-term (≥ 2-generation study) BPA and selected pharmaceutical compounds toxicity tests to model benthic microcrustacean ostracod species via exposure of sediment containing BPA and PC at concentrations reported for central Spain river basins.

This project is lead by Tadeusz Namiotko. Comunidad de MadridMadrid Talent Attraction Program. Call 2016.

Disentagling the carbon distribution in karst aquifers: the significance for vertical extent of groundwater biota (Carbon-KARST)

Aquifers are generally perceived as food-limited ecosystems as they are devoid of phototrophic primary production. This is reflected in a low concentration of organic carbon, that together with the reducing of nutrients and oxygen cause a decline of favorable conditions for subterranean life with depth. Consequently, the groundwater biota follows a vertical spatial distribution associated with the availability of nutrients. The true food-limitation of aquifers is currently largely questioned, since the diversity of biota has been documented to be high in several aquifers. Food resources rich underground from the soil bellow the litter zone in forested areas by water percolating trough fissures and creates oligotrophic conditions favoring the development of a rich subterranean populations. Carbon-KARST project aims to determine the relation among the concentration of organic carbon from shallow and deep subterranean habitats and the spatial distribution of groundwater communities in two karst aquifers from Kalkalpen, Austria and Postojna area, Slovenia. Carbon-KARST will be performed at two e-LTER sites, Postojna Cave in Slovenia working in collaboration with Tanja Pipan from Karst Research Institute, Postojna, Slovenia and in Kalkalpen National Park in Upper Austria, in collaboration with Thomas Dirnböck from Umweltbundesamt, Austria).  Financing: eLTER H2020 Transnational Access scheme.

Team & collaborators: Sanda Iepure, Andrea Castaño, Tanja Pipan (Karst Research Institute, Postojna, Slovenia), Thomas Dirnböck (Umweltbundesamt, Austria).

Ecological assessment of groundwater and groundwater dependent ecosystems

Sampling microinvertebratesGroundwater is one of the most important natural resources on Earth which is currently under an exponential increase risks due to contamination and overexploitation. Integration of knowledge resulted from groundwater ecology will significantly advance our understanding of subterranean ecosystems, in terms of improvement/maintenance of water quality, bioremediation of contaminated aquifers as well as enhancing the knowledge on groundwater habitats and biodiversity conservation. The Groundwater Ecology group of IMDEA Water is focused on applying the ecological criteria for an integrated assessment of groundwater ecosystems health, by using crustaceans as bioindicators. Our R & D activities aim to unravel the biodiversity of groundwater crustaceans and the ecological factors controlling the community’s structure and function from pristine and contaminated aquifers. Current projects in the group address questions related to the impacts of agricultural practices on aquifers quality and of biotic community resilience and resistance; assess the impact of artificial recharged aquifers on groundwater ecosystems biota and the evaluation of toxic effects of emerging contaminants on groundwater crustacean species. 

Read more about this project in the article published in the Weblog "Water": Hypogean crustaceans as bio-indicators for groundwater pollution (Sanda Iepure, researcher at IMDEA Water).

Madrid Advanced Wastewater Treatment Network (REMTAVARES)


The project is the reference point in terms of advanced technologies in wastewater management to ensure sustainable development for the Community of Madrid. Within the project we aim to test the ecotoxicological effects of pharmaceutical compounds on surface and groundwater crustaceans. With this work we also aim to examine the sensitivity of copepods and ostracods crustaceans and their use as sentinel species for assessing the health of hyporheic and groundwater ecosystems condition. The project is financed by the Community of Madrid: S2013/MAE-2716, 2014-2018) Team: Dr. Sanda Iepure; Dr. Serena Molina Martínez; PhD Researcher Raquel García Pacheco; Research Assistant Andrea Castaño Sánchez. Contact: Sanda Iepure.

More information: http://remtavares.com/  Unión Europea



Surface / groundwater interactions – a biological and ecohydrological approach

The hyporheic zone is the subsurface flow area beneath and adjacent to streams and rivers characterized by active vertical and lateral exchanges of nutrients and organic matter among surface and groundwater, in response to variations in discharge and bed topography and porosity. Current projects of the Groundwater Ecology group aims to: i) assess structure and dynamics of hyporheic communities from rivers and streams in the Mediterranean and Arctic regions; ii) investigate the role of the hyporheic zone as an intermediary transfer area of pollutants from the surface rivers to groundwater; and iii) delineate the lateral and vertical spatial extents of the hyporheic zone, characterize the streambed architecture and provide detailed spatial information on vertical and horizontal continuity of hyporheic zone. We combine the biological assessments of hyporheic invertebrate’s community’s structural patterns and ecological features with the non-invasive geophysical techniques obtained by electrical resistivity tomography (ERT). The results of the proposed researches aims to highlight the use of hyporheic communities as an alternative proxy to investigate the water quality and surface water/ground water exchanges; to understand the hyporheic structure and function and its relation to the associated alluvial aquifers; and to provide an early warning signal of subsurface ecosystems quality decline. Our researches propose to advance our understanding of the ecohydrological processes occurring at the surface/groundwater interface and will endorse the effective incorporation of the hyporheic zone in stream management plans. Both facets are essential for the development of sustainable integrated water management strategies at the river basin level. Team: Dr. Sanda Iepure (IMDEA Water), Dr. Raffaela Meffe (IMDEA Water), Dr. Javier Lillo Ramos (University Rey Juan Carlos - IMDEA Water), Dr. David Gómez Ortiz (University Rey Juan Carlos, Spain); PhD Student Ruben Rasines Ladero (IMDEA Water). Contact: Sanda Iepure.


Intelligent system to optimize the use of water in agriculture (SMART-HYDRO)

SMART-HYDROSMART-HYDRO aims to incorporate technological advances in sensors, multispectral images and telecommunications to control the quantity and quality of groundwater in agricultural landscape, in order to reduce energy costs, water losses and environmental impact. Within SMART-HYDRO we explore the aquifers ecosystems status affected by agricultural activities (i.e. irrigation, use of fertilizers and pesticides compounds) by analyzing the groundwater crustacean’s community’s structural patterns and the alterations of ecosystem services they provide related to groundwater quality. (Funding: Plan Nacional de I+D+i, RTC-2014-2367-5; 2014-2018). Team: Dr. Francisco Carreño Conde (University Rey Juan Carlos, Spain), Dr. Sanda Iepure; Research Assistant David Mostaza; Research Assistant Anna Sundberg (IMDEA Water). Contact: Francisco Carreño.

More information: http://smarthydro.inkoa.com




Scientific & technical offer: Ecological assessment of groundwater and groundwater dependent ecosystems

Biology and Microbiology Lab