A trait-based approach to determine the risks of Zn to the overall health status of native fish species Barbus meridionalis

Fish adapt to changing environments by maintaining homeostasis or making energy trade-offs that impact fitness. We investigated the effect of Zn on the fitness and physiology of Barbus meridionalis, a native cyprinid fish species, under two exposure scenarios. The Osor stream's mine-effluent reach represented long-term (chronic) exposure, while the upstream reach served as a control/acute exposure. Acute exposure involved exposing B. meridionalis to 1mg/L Zn for 96 h in the laboratory. We examined physiological traits (Standard metabolic rate SMR, Maximum metabolic rate MMR, Absolute Aerobic scope AAS, Critical swimming capacity Ucrit) and antioxidant system, AS (Superoxide dismutase, SOD; Catalase, CAT; Glutathione peroxidase, GPX; Glutathione-S-transferase, GST; Glutathione, GSH; Thiobarbaturic acid reactive substances, TBARS) biomarkers. The results indicated that Zn had no significant effect on osmoregulatory cost (SMR) in either exposure scenario but impaired energetically costly exercise (low MMR). AAS reduction in both exposure groups suggested compromised energy allocation for life-history traits, evidenced by decreased locomotor performance (Ucrit) after acute exposure. Tissue-specific and time-dependent responses were observed for AS biomarkers. The fish exhibited ineffective control of oxidative damage, as evidenced by high TBARS levels in the liver and gills, despite increased CAT and GSH in the liver under acute conditions. Our findings demonstrate differential responses at the subcellular level between the two exposure scenarios, while trait-based endpoints followed a similar pattern. This highlights the utility of a trait-based approach as a supplementary endpoint in biomonitoring studies, which provides insights into impacts on individual fitness and population demography ​
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