Many soils are polluted with Mixtures of moderate levels of contaminants. In The Netherlands 175,000 sites in rural areas are classified as highly polluted. However, it remains unclear to what extent local ecosystems are endangered. In this paper, we report on the effect of contaminants on earthworms in a meadow system. We tested a polluted and a reference field soil with similar soil characteristics and agricultural use. In the polluted soil copper, mercury, and lead were elevated by more than 200% compared with the reference soil. Bioassays on growth and reproduction in the earthworm species Lumbricus rubellus were executed in both soils, and a population model was used to assess the population-level consequences of changes in growth and reproduction. No significant effects were seen on reproduction and Survival in L. rubellus, but development was retarded in the polluted soil. This resulted in a 23% lower growth rate and a change in demography toward younger individuals. Field data on population composition of earthworms were used to support the laboratory results, and the relevance of the results for the godwit (Limosa limosa), which mainly feeds on earthworms during the breeding season, is discussed.
- heavy-metal pollution
Klok, C., van der Hout, A., & Bodt, J. M. (2006). Population growth and development of the earthworm Lumbricus rubellus in a polluted field soil: possible consequences for the godwit (Limosa limosa). Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, 25(1), 213-219. https://doi.org/10.1897/05-286R.1