The aim of this study was to determine the effects of heavy metal pollution on the structure and functioning of detritivore soil communities that consist of isopods, millipedes and earthworms, in 15 heavily polluted flood plain soils, located in the delta area of the rivers Rhine and Meuse, in the Netherlands. The 15 study sites represent a gradient in Zn, Cu and Cd concentrations. The structural attributes of the detritivore community, which were assessed, were the species richness and densities in the field sites. The functioning of the detritivore community was studied by determining organic matter decomposition using litter bags and feeding activity with the baitlamina method. Concentrations of Cd, Cu and Zn were measured in soil, pore water and 0.01 M CaCl2 extracts of the soil, in adult earthworms and plant leaves. Results show that metal pollution is not a dominating factor determining the species richness and densities of the selected detritivore groups, although the biomass of the earthworm Lumbricus rubellus was positively and significantly correlated to Zn concentrations in pore water and 0.01 M CaCl2 extracts. Litter decomposition was significantly and positively correlated to detritivore biomass and 0.01 M CaCl2 extractable Cd concentrations in soil and negatively to pH-CaCl2, although the range of pH values was very small. It can be concluded that in spite of high metal levels in the soil, bioavailable concentrations are too low to result in clear negative effects on the structure and functioning of detritivores in the Biesbosch, the Netherlands. (c) 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
- earthworm lumbricus-rubellus
- pollution gradient