Combined effects of zinc and earthworm density on soil ecosystem functioning

J. Lahr, S.A.E. Kools, A. van der Hout, J.H. Faber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


In traditional environmental risk assessment for soils, interactions between biota, contaminants and soil functioning are seldom taken into account. Also, single species toxicity tests are conducted with a fixed number of test animals. The objective of this study was to investigate effects of zinc (0¿620 mg Zn kg¿1 dry soil) on soil ecosystem processes at different densities of the earthworm Lumbricus rubellus. Experiments were conducted using 1-liter microcosms equipped with respirometers. The presence of L. rubellus stimulated relevant soil processes and parameters: litter fragmentation, leaf litter mass loss from the soil surface, soil organic matter (SOM) content and soil respiration. Zinc was not lethal to L. rubellus, but negatively impacted soil respiration at the highest concentrations. Litter mass loss from the soil surface was also decreased by zinc and there was a significant interaction with worm density. The results of the study demonstrate that the impact of zinc on soil processes depends on the presence and densities of key soil organisms such as earthworms that influence decomposition and SOM content. The outcome of this research can be used to make existing models for site-specific risk assessment more ecologically relevant, linking effects of contaminants on soil fauna populations with effects on ecosystem functioning.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)334-341
JournalSoil Biology and Biochemistry
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2008


  • population-growth rate
  • microbial processes
  • lumbricus-rubellus
  • toxicant exposure
  • polluted soil
  • responses
  • toxicity
  • microorganisms
  • contamination
  • enchytraeids


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