In situ effects of arsenic, aluminium and chromium stresses on algal periphyton of the river Ganga at Varanasi, India

Submitted: 7 December 2022
Accepted: 30 May 2023
Published: 30 June 2023
Abstract Views: 985
PDF: 259
HTML: 17
Publisher's note
All claims expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of their affiliated organizations, or those of the publisher, the editors and the reviewers. Any product that may be evaluated in this article or claim that may be made by its manufacturer is not guaranteed or endorsed by the publisher.


In situ effect of metal stress on periphytic algal communities of a river was studied using chemical diffusing substrates. The metal stress caused the inhibition of periphytic biomass in a concentration-dependent manner. The study indicated differential response of various periphytic groups to different metal treatments. Diatoms exhibited tolerance against arsenic (As) and aluminium (Al) treatment but displayed sensitivity against chromium (Cr) treatment. An increased abundance of cyanobacteria was noteworthy in Cr enrichment, but Al and As were hazardous to these organisms. The relative abundance of green algae also increased in all three test metals. The metal stress lowered the species richness and diversity of periphytic algae, apparently due to the elimination of some of the sensitive species followed by an increased abundance of tolerant forms. Periphytic taxa tolerant to one metal were not necessarily tolerant to other metals or metalloids, and vice versa. The metal-induced changes in algal community composition will lead to severe ecological consequences by affecting biological diversity and in turn productivity of aquatic systems. Since algae occupy the aquatic food web base, any harmful effect on these organisms would have repercussions at higher trophic levels. Thus, it seems urgent to incorporate biomonitoring practices and chemical analysis to monitor the river Ganga's ecological health.



PlumX Metrics


Download data is not yet available.


Arini A, Feurtet-Mazel A, Maury-Brachet R, Pokrovsky OS, Coste M, Delmas F, 2012a. Recovery potential of periphytic biofilms translocated in artificial streams after industrial contamination (Cd and Zn). Ecotoxicology 21:1403-1014. DOI:
Arini A, Feurtet-Mazel A, Maury-Brachet R, Coste M, Delmas F, 2012b. Field translocation of diatom biofilms impacted by Cd and Zn to assess decontamination and community restructuring capacities. Ecol Indic 18:520-531. DOI:
Arnegard ME, McCormick PV, Cairns JJr, 1998.) Effects of copper on periphyton communities assessed in situ using chemical-diffusing substrates. Hydrobiologia 385:163-170. DOI:
Barral-Fraga L, Morin S, Rovira MDM, Urrea G, Magellan K, Guasch H, 2016. Short-term arsenic exposure reduces diatom cell size in biofilms communities. Env Sci and Poll Res 23:4257-4270. DOI:
Bhattacharya P, Pal R, 2011. Response of cyanobacteria to arsenic toxicity. J Appl Phycol 23:293-299. DOI:
Blanck H, Admiraal W, Cleven RFMJ, Guasch H, van den Hoop M, Ivorra N, et al., 2003. Variability in zinc tolerance, measured as incorporation of radio-labeled carbon dioxide and thymidine, in periphyton communities sampled from 15 European river stretches. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol 44:17-29. DOI:
Castro MCR, Urrea G, Guasch H, 2015. Influence of the interaction between phosphate and arsenate on periphyton's growth and its nutrient uptake capacity. Sci Total Environ 503-504:122-132. DOI:
Cox EJ, 1996. Identification of freshwater diatoms from live materials. Chapman & Hall, London: 158 pp.
De Filippis LF, Pallaghy CK, 1994).Heavy metals: sources and biological effects, p. 31-77. In: Rai LC, Gaur JP and Soeder CJ (eds.), Advances in limnology series: Algae and water pollution. E. Scheizerbartsche Press, Stuttgart.
Debnath M, Bhadury P, 2016. Adaptive responses and arsenic transformation potential of diazotrophic Cyanobacteria isolated from rice fields of arsenic affected Bengal Delta Plain. J Appl Phycol 28:2777-2792. DOI:
Duong TT, Morin S, Herlory O, Feurtet-Mazel A, Coste M, Boudou A, 2008. Seasonal effects of cadmium accumulation in periphytic diatom communities of freshwater biofilms. Aquat Toxicol 90:19-28. DOI:
Foster PL, 1982. Metal resistances of Chlorophyta from river polluted by heavy-metals. Freshwater Biol 12: 41-61. DOI:
Gaur JP, Rai LC, 2001. Heavy metal tolerance in algae, p. 230-257. In: Rai LC, Gaur JP (eds.), Algal adaptation to environmental stresses: physiological, biochemical and molecular mechanisms. Springer, New York. DOI:
Gensemer RW, Playle RC, 1999. The bioavailability and toxicity of aluminum in aquatic environments. Crit Rev Envron Sci and Techol 29:315-450. DOI:
Genter RB, 1995. Benthic algal populations respond to aluminium acid and aluminium acid mixtures in artificial streams. Hydrobiologia 306:7-19. DOI:
Genter RB, Cherry DS, Smith EP, Cairns JJr, 1987. Algal periphyton and community changes from zinc stress in stream mesocosms. Hydrobiologia 153:261-275. DOI:
Havens KE, Decosta J, 1987. The role of aluminum contamination in determining phytoplankton and zooplankton responses to acidification. Water Air Soil Pollut 33:277-293. DOI:
Hillebrand H, Dürselen CD, Kirschtel D, Pollingher U, Zohary T, 1999. Biovolume calculation for pelagic and benthic microalgae. J Phycol 35:403-424. DOI:
Hirst H, Ingrid JU, Jüttner I, Ormerod SJ, 2002. Comparing the responses of diatoms and macroinvertebrates to metals in upland streams of Wales and Cornwall. Freshwater Biol 47:1752-1765. DOI:
Kaplan D, 2013. Absorption and adsorption of heavy metals by microalgae, p. 602-611. In: Richmond A, Hu Q (eds.), Handbook of microalgal culture: applied phycology and biotechnology. Blackwell Publishing Ltd., Oxford. DOI:
Kartick B, Taylor JC, Mahesh MK, Ramachandra TV, 2010. Protocols for collection, preservation and enumeration of diatoms from aquatic habitats for water quality monitoring in India. IUP J Soil Water Sci 3:1-36.
Kumari JN, Venkateswarlu V, Rajkumar B, 1991. Heavy-metal pollution and phytoplankton in the river Moosi (Hydrabad), India. Int J Environ Stud 38:157-164. DOI:
Larson CA, Passy SI, 2012. Taxonomic and functional composition of the algal benthos exhibits similar successional trends in response to nutrient supply and current velocity. FEMS Microbiol Ecol 80:352-362 . DOI:
Licursi M, Gómez N, 2013, Short-term toxicity of hexavalent-chromium to epipsammic diatoms of a microtidal estuary (Río de la Plata): responses from the individual cell to the community structure. Aquat Toxicol 134-135:82-91. DOI:
Maeda S, Wada H, Kumeda K, Onoue M, Ohki A, Higashi S, Takeshita T, 2004. Methylation of inorganic arsenic by arsenic-tolerant freshwater algae. Appl Organomet Chem 1:465-472. DOI:
McCauley JR, Bouldin JL, 2016. Cadmium accumulation in periphyton from an abandoned mining district in the Buffalo national river, Arkansas. Bull Environ Contam Toxicol 96:757-761. DOI:
Morin S, Duong TT, Dabrin A, Coynel A, Herlory O, Baudrimont M, et al., 2008a. Long-term survey of heavy-metal pollution, biofilm contamination and diatom community structure in the Riou Mort watershed, South-West France. Envniron Pollut 151:532-542. DOI:
Morin S, Duong TT, Herlory O, Feurtet-Mazel A, Coste M, 2008b. Cadmium toxicity and bioaccumulation in freshwater biofilms. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol 5:173-186. DOI:
Nicholls KH, Nakamoto L, Keller W, 1992. Phytoplankton of Sudbury area lakes (Ontario) and relationships with acidification status. Can J Fish and Aquat Sci 49:40-51. DOI:
Negi S, Han T, Park J, Bergey EA, Sangeeta, Chaubey J, et al., 2023. Qualitative and quantitative assessment of diatom deformities and protoplasmic condition under metal and metalloid stress. Protoplasma Online ahead of print. DOI:
Oliveira R, 1985. Phytoplankton community response to a mine effluent rich in copper. Hydrobiologia 128:61-69. DOI:
Pandey LK, Kumar D, Yadav A, Rai, J, Gaur JP, 2014. Morphological abnormalities in periphytic diatoms as a tool for biomonitoring of heavy metal pollution in a river. Ecol Indic 36:272-279. DOI:
Pandey LK, Bergey EA, 2018. Metal toxicity and recovery response of riverine periphytic algae. Sci Total Environ 642:1020-1031. DOI:
Park J, Lee H, Depuydt S, Han T, Pandey LK, 2020. Assessment of five live-cell characteristics in periphytic diatoms as a measure of copper stress. J Hazard Mater 400:123113. DOI:
Passow HA, Rothstein H, Clarkson TW, 1961. The general pharmacology of the heavy metals. Pharmacol Rev 13:185-225.
Patrick R, 1978. Effects of trace metals in the aquatic ecosystem. Am Sci 66:185-191.
Patrick R, Reimer CW, 1966. The diatoms of the United States, exclusive of Alaska and Hawaii. Monograph No. 13. Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia. DOI:
Patrick R, Reimer CW, 1975. The Diatoms of the United States. Vol. 2, Part 1. Monograph No. 13. Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia.
Pérès F, Coste M, Ribeyre F, Ricard M, Boudou A, 1997. Effects of methylmercury and inorganic mercury on periphytic diatom communities in freshwater indoor microcosms. J Appl Phycol 9:215-227.
Prescott GW, 1962. Algae of the western Great Lakes area. W.C. Brown Publ. Co., Dubuque: 977 pp. DOI:
Prescott GW, 1978. How to know the freshwater algae. W.C. Brown Publ. Co., Dubuque: 293 pp.
Rai LC, Gaur JP, Kumar HD, 1981a. Phycology and heavy metal pollution. Biol Rev 56:99-151. DOI:
Rai LC, Gaur JP, Kumar HD, 1981b. Protective effects of certain environmental factors on the toxicity of zinc, mercury and methylmercury to Chlorella vulgaris. Environ Res 25:250-259. DOI:
Serra A, Corcoll N, Guasch H, 2009. Copper accumulation and toxicity in fluvial periphyton: The influence of exposure history. Chemosphere 74:633-641. DOI:
Shannon CE, 1948. A mathematical theory of communication. Bell Syst Tech J 27:379- 423 DOI:
Sharma VK, Sohn H, 2009. Aquatic arsenic: Toxicity, speciation, transformations, and remediation. Environ Int 25:743-759. DOI:
Singh AK, Rai LC, 1990. Use of in situ structural and functional variables of phytoplankton of the river Ganga for assessment of Heavy-Metal toxicity. Biomed Environ Sci 3:397-405.
Smedley PL, Kinniburgh DG, 2002. A review of the source, behaviour and distribution of arsenic in natural waters. Appl Geochem 17:517-568. DOI:
Strickland JDH, Parson TR, 1968. A practical handbook of seawater analysis. Fisheries Research Board of Canada, Ottawa.
Takamura N, Kasai F, Watanabae MM, 1989. Effects of Cu, Cd and Zn on photosynthesis of freshwater benthic algae. J Appl Phycol 1:39-52. DOI:
Tuulaikhuu BA, Romani AM, Guasch H, 2015. Arsenic toxicity effects on microbial communities and nutrient cycling in indoor experimental channels mimicking a fluvial system. Aquat Toxicol 166:72-82. DOI:
Upreti N, Sharma S, Sharma S, Sharma KP, 2013. Effects of aluminium and fluoride on panktonic community of the microcosms. Nat Environ Pollut Technol 12:523-528.
Viti C, Giovannetti L, 2007. Bioremediation of soils polluted with hexavalent chromium using bacteria: a challenge, p. 57-76. In: Singh SN, Tripathi RD (eds.), Environmental bioremediation technologies. Springer, Berlin. DOI:
Wängberg S-Å, 1995. Effects of arsenate and copper on the algal communities in polluted lakes in the northern parts of Sweden assayed by PICT (Pollution-Induced Community Tolerance). Hydrobiologia 306:109-124. DOI:
Wetzel RG, Likens GE, 2000. Lymnological analyses. Springer, New York: 429 pp. DOI:
Whitton BA, 1970. Toxicity of heavy metals to Chlorophyta from flowing waters. Arch Microbiol 72:553-560. DOI:
Williams LG, Mount DI, 1965. Influence of zinc on periphytic communities. Am J Bot 52:26-34. DOI:
Yadav A, Kumar D, Pandey LK, Singh RS, Rai J, 2018. Seasonal variations in response of periphytic algal community to nutrient enrichment in the river Ganga (Varanasi, India). Ann Limnol-Int J limnol 54:32. DOI:
Zhou Q, Zhang J, Fu J, Shi J, Jiang G, 2008. Biomonitoring: an appealing tool for assessment of metal pollution in the aquatic ecosystem. Anal Chim Acta 606:135-150. DOI:

Edited by

Andras Abony, MTA Centre for Ecological Research, Institute of Ecology and Botany, Vácrátót, Hungary

Supporting Agencies

SERB, New Delhi - SERB-SRG (SRG/2020/000432)

How to Cite

Yadav, Arpana, and Lalit Kumar Pandey. 2023. “<i>In situ</i> Effects of Arsenic, Aluminium and Chromium Stresses on Algal Periphyton of the River Ganga at Varanasi, India”. Journal of Limnology 82 (1).