Laboratory tests are typically conducted under optimal conditions testing the single effect of a toxicant. In the field, due to suboptimal conditions, density dependence can both diminish and enhance effects of toxicants on populations. A review of the literature indicated that general insight on interaction of density and toxicants is lacking, and therefore no predictions on their combined action can be made. In this paper the influence of zinc was tested at different population densities on the demographic rates: growth, reproduction, and survival in the earthworm Lumbricus rubellus. Changes in these rates were extrapolated with a combined Dynamic energy budget (DEB) and a population model to assess consequences at the population level. Inference from the DEB model indicated that density decreased the assimilation of food whereas zinc increased the maintenance costs. The combined effects of density and zinc resulted in a decrease in the intrinsic rate of population increase which suddenly dropped to zero at combinations of zinc and density where development is so strongly retarded that individuals do not mature. This already happened at zinc levels where zinc induced mortality is low and therefore density enhances zinc effects and density dependent compensation is not expected.
- growth rate