Researchers wrote in the journal Ecological Applications that pharmaceuticals commonly found in the environment are disrupting streams.
“Pharmaceutical pollution is now detected in waters throughout the world. Causes include aging infrastructure, sewage overflows, and agricultural runoff,” said lead author Dr. Emma Rosi-Marshall, a scientist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies. “Even when waste water makes it to sewage treatment facilities, they aren’t equipped to remove pharmaceuticals. As a result, our streams and rivers are exposed to a cocktail of synthetic compounds, from stimulants and antibiotics to analgesics and antihistamines.”
“We focused on the response of biofilms – which most people know as the slippery coating on stream rocks – because they’re vital to stream health,” Rosi-Marshall said “They might not look like much to the naked eye, but biofilms are complex communities composed of algae, fungi, and bacteria all living and working together. In streams, biofilms contribute to water quality by recycling nutrients and organic matter. They’re also a major food source for invertebrates that, in turn, feed larger animals like fish.”