An ecological impact study was performed based on in situ biomarker assays with the waterflea Daphnia magna. The effects of metallurgic effluents on the energy metabolism, anti-oxidative metabolism and DNA damage were assessed in caged daphnids during a 4-week study. In situ survival and reproduction studies demonstrated a clear impact on these parameters in organisms exposed in the most polluted areas. At the downstream--sublethal--zone the organisms were disturbed within their tolerance limits, resulting in alterations of their energy metabolism. These data suggest an acclimation hypothesis, which was tested through the analysis of the energy metabolism of resident species: isopods and amphipods. These organisms had shifted to a decrease in their overall energy metabolism compared to the upstream region. This change in some biochemical processes suggests a selective advantage to cope with the prevailing environmental conditions. In addition, we found clear genotoxic effects caused by the industrial discharges that might correlate with a reduction in (long-term) survival.