A Delicate Balance between Copper Necessity and Toxicity

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Rebecca Zitoun
Emily Brain


Recent human activities, such as urbanisation, industrialisation and agricultural intensification, have produced a concerning increase in the concentrations of trace metals in the aquatic environment. While metals such as copper are essential micro-nutrients to aqueous organisms, they become toxicants when surpassing a critical concentration threshold in the aquatic environment. The copper concentration of many natural water masses and tissue of aquatic organisms have been found to exceed essential levels. These elevated levels of copper lead to sub-lethal or toxic effects on adults or, more crucially, their larval stages, drastically impacting the diversity, health, structure and functioning of affected ecosystems. The detection, monitoring and assessment of copper concentrations are therefore key to the integrity of aquatic environments and are becoming increasingly important as a result of legislation and increasing public awareness.

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Author Biographies

Rebecca Zitoun, University of Otago.

Rebecca Zitoun is a PhD student with Sylvia Sander (Chemistry Department), and Russell Frew (Chemistry Department) and Abigail Smith (Marine Science Department) at the University of Otago.

Emily Brain

Emily Brain is an Australian-born Jewellery and Metalsmithing graduate from the Dunedin School of Art.