Acidity (pH) has been realized to be the most important soil characteristic that modulates bioavailability of heavy metals by affecting both the chemical speciation of metals in soil and the metal binding to the active sites on biota. In this work, we show that besides soil pH, metal bioavailability also depends to a certain extent on the type of soil. A better understanding of the role of soil type in regulating metal availability can be achieved with the analysis of soil composition and with calculations using chemical speciation models. Results of pot experiments, in which three different soils were spiked with nickel, show that the EC50 of total nickel in decreasing the biomass production of oats varies widely (0.7-22.5 mmol kg(-1) soil, more than 30 times). pH (4.7-7.0) is the most important factor, explaining up to a factor of 14 difference of nickel bioavailability in the soils. The remaining variation is caused by other differences in soil composition (soil type). The bioavailability and toxicity of nickel in the organic matter-rich soil studied is less than half of that in the sandy and clay soil studied at a similar pH. The chemical calculations using a multi-surface speciation model show that soil organic matter binds Ni much stronger than clay silicates and iron (hydr)-oxides within the acidic pH range, which supports the experimental findings. In all three soils, the EC50 of Ni expressed in terms of Ni in 0.01 M CaCl2 soil extraction is rather stable (24-58 muM), suggesting the possibility to use this extraction as an estimation of metal availability in soil.
- humic substances