Influences of the antidepressant fluoxetine on stream ecosystem function and aquatic insect emergence at environmentally realistic concentrations

Erinn K. Richmond, Emma J. Rosi, Alexander J. Reisinger, Brittany R. Hanrahan, Ross M. Thompson, Michael R. Grace

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Fluoxetine, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), is frequently detected in surface waters globally, yet the effects of SSRIs on ecological processes at environmentally realistic concentrations are not currently known. We used a controlled, replicated artificial stream experiment to expose biofilm, algal and stream insect communities to two different concentrations of fluoxetine: 20 ng/L (typical concentration detected in surface waters) and 20 µg/L (concentration shown to influence insect emergence and algal productivity). We quantified a range of community and ecosystem response metrics over the course of the 21d experiment including; algal biomass (chl-a), net ecosystem production (NEP), gross primary production (GPP), ecosystem respiration (ER) and invertebrate emergence. At 20 ng/L, fluoxetine significantly suppressed algal colonization on rocks, and reduced GPP after 13 days, but by day 21 chl-a, NEP and GPP did not differ between treatments and control. Fluoxetine increased ER on leaves where invertebrates were excluded, but had no effect on leaves accessible to invertebrates. Streams receiving 20 ng/L of fluoxetine had adult insects from the order Diptera emerge sooner and at a greater rate than control streams. Our results suggest that ecosystem function, including primary production and respiration, and invertebrate population dynamics are sensitive to SSRIs and that fluoxetine may alter these key processes concentrations found in the environment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)513-531
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Freshwater Ecology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jun 2019


  • ecological disruption
  • Ecological effects
  • emerging contaminant
  • fluoxetine
  • insect emergence

Cite this