Phycology and heavy-metal pollution

Rai, L. C. ; Gaur, J. P. ; Kumar, H.D. (1981) Phycology and heavy-metal pollution Biological Reviews, 56 (2). pp. 99-151. ISSN 1464-7931

Full text not available from this repository.

Official URL:

Related URL:


1. All heavy metals, including those that are essential micronutrients (e.g. copper, zinc, etc.), are toxic to algae at high concentrations. 2. One characteristic feature of heavy-metal toxicity is the poisoning and inactivation of enzyme systems. Many of the physiological and biochemical processes, viz., photosynthesis, respiration, protein synthesis and chlorophyll synthesis, etc., are severely affected at high metal concentrations. 3. Some algae inhabit waters chronically polluted with heavy-metal-laden wastes from mining and smelting operations; Nodularia sp., Oscillatoria sp., Cladophora sp., Hormidium sp., Fucus sp. and Laminaria sp., etc., occur in metal-rich waters. These algal forms are probably more capable of combating the toxic levels of heavy metals and this attribute is a result of physiological and/or genetic adaptations. The sensitivity or tolerance to heavy metals varies amongst different algae. The phenomena of multiple tolerance and co-tolerance may be exhibited by some algae. 4. Heavy-metal pollution causes reduction in species diversity leading to the dominance of a few tolerant algal forms. The primary productivity also decreases after metal supplementation. 5. The uptake and accumulation of heavy metals can be active (energy-dependent), passive (energy-independent), or both. 6. Heavy metals can be safely stored as intranuclear complexes by some algae. Notwithstanding this, some changes in the cell wall can enable the algae to tolerate heavy metals by checking the entry of the metals (exclusion mechanism). 7. The metal content of algae growing in a waterbody may yield valuable information for simulating heavy metal pollution: several species of Cladophora and Fucus have been extensively used for this purpose. 8. Several factors affect and determine toxicity of heavy metals to algae. At low ρΗ, the availability of heavy metals to algae is greatly increased, as a consequence of which pronounced toxicity is evident. Hard waters decrease metal toxicity. Some ions, e.g., calcium, magnesium and phosphorus, can alleviate toxicity of metals. 9. The presence of other metals can influence toxicity of a heavy metal through simple additive effect or by synergistic and antagonistic interactions. Similarly, other pollutants can influence heavy-metal toxicity. 10. The toxicity of heavy metals depends upon their chemical speciation. Various ionic forms of a metal characterized by different valency states, may be differentially toxic to a test alga. 11. Amino acids, organic matter, humic acids, fulvic acid, EDTA, NTA, etc. can complex with heavy metals and render them unavailable. This may eventually lead to less toxicity. 12. Heavy-metal toxicity largely depends upon algal population density: the denser the population the more numerous the cellular sites available, leading to decreased toxicity.

Item Type:Article
Source:Copyright of this article belongs to Cambridge Medical Publications.
ID Code:18125
Deposited On:17 Nov 2010 13:08
Last Modified:04 Jun 2011 07:20

Repository Staff Only: item control page