You are here : Version anglaise > Research > H2O'Lyon Certificate // For PhD

Nathalie Lecrivain



Study of the contamination and the corresponding ecotoxicology of the surficial sediments in lake littoral zone


The littoral zone of lakes is of great ecological importance and yet receives a large array of contaminants from the watershed. This pollution is mainly trapped by the surface sediment, but its bioavailability may be allowed by physico-chemical and biological reactions in this zone of high environmental fluctuations. This work aims at improving knowledge about the behavior of sediment-borne contaminants (trace metals, PAHs and PCBs) in the lake littoral zone by using two large perialpine lakes; Lake Bourget and Lake Annecy. More precisely, our goals were to (1) characterize the littoral contamination and the influence of local sources in this contamination, (2) assess the ecotoxicity of the sediment-borne contamination and the main changes in its mobility and bioavailability under abiotic changes in the littoral zone, such as those related to water-level fluctuations in lakes. The contamination of the sediments and native organisms exhibited a significant spatial heterogeneity along the lake littoral, in both intensity and profile’s composition. The involvement of local sources of contamination (e.g. stormwater runoff) as drivers of this spatial heterogeneity has been highlighted. The ecotoxicity of littoral sediments was assessed through the responses of enzymatic biomarkers (AChE and GST), physiological traits (e.g. ingestion rates in D. magna) and life-history traits (e.g. growth, reproduction and survival rates). Our results also underscored a significant spatial heterogeneity of the littoral sediment ecotoxicity. A greater focus on the bioavailability of trace metals at the sediment-water-biota interfaces showed that bioavailability depends on the metal, the exposed biota (benthic vs pelagic) and fluctuate under water-level fluctuations. Drought and re-immersion of surface sediments were followed with a reduction of the bioavailable fractions of the trace metals. However, decreases in the water-level led to increase suspended sediments in the water column, which may exert an ecotoxicological risk for the littoral biota. Our results underline how complex the littoral contamination and bioavailability are and promote ecotoxicological approaches in the assessment of the ecological status of large lakes.

Key words

Lake littoral zone, micropollutant, sediment, bioavailability, water-level fluctuations

H2O'Lyon Thesis Director

Bernard Clément, ENTPE

Thesis Co-director

Victor Frossard, Université de Savoie-Mont-Blanc

Doctoral School

ED 206 - Chemistry, Processes, Environment



Defence date

8 March 2019

Defence language


Thesis Jury Members

Marc Desmet, Pr., Université de Tours
Valeria Mezzanotte, Pr., Université de Milan
Benoît Ferrari, DR, Centre Ecotox EAWAG-EPFL Lausanne
Rémy Gourdon, Pr., INSA de Lyon
Bernard Clément, Chercheur HDR, ENTPE
Victor Frossard, MCU, Université de Savoie-Mont-Blanc