Introduction. Effect-based methods (EBMs), i.e. in vitro and in vivo bioassays, represent innovative tools for the effect detection of environmental chemical pollutants on living organisms. The aim of this study was to evaluate the water quality of a river ecosystem implementing two in vivo bioassays on target freshwater animal species: the crustacean Daphnia magna and the small fish Danio rerio, also known as zebrafish.
Materials and methods. The methods applied in this study, i.e. the Daphnia sp. Acute Immobilisation assay and the Fish Embryo Acute Toxicity (FET) test, are commonly used in water quality research and their application in short-term ecotoxicity detection is suggested by recent European projects. Two sampling sites were chosen in the urban part of the Tiber River in Rome, while a third one was chosen as a reference site in the Farfa River, a tributary upstream of the city. The sites in the Tiber River are potentially affected by different pollution sources, including urban and industrial wastewater discharges, the pesticide release, livestock waste products, and waste dumps.
Results and discussion. The results of the study showed wide differences between the two applied bioassays. The FET test was generally more sensitive in detecting even low effects in all the water samples, but the strongest statistically results were observed with the D. magna Acute Immobilisation test. The results of this research confirm the effectiveness of EBMs in investigating and monitoring water chemical pollution, and stress the need for performing further studies, e.g. chemical analyses and other bioassays, to improve the knowledge of the health status of the Tiber River basin.
Conclusions. Further results will aim to support the local authorities in adopting measures to reduce and to eliminate the sources of chemical pollution in the study area.