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Effects of metal-contaminated soils on the growth, sexual development, and early cocoon production of the earthworm Eisenia fetida, with particular reference to zinc

, : Effects of metal-contaminated soils on the growth, sexual development, and early cocoon production of the earthworm Eisenia fetida, with particular reference to zinc. Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety 35(1): 86-95

Juvenile Eisenia fetida (Savigny) were exposed for 20 weeks to an uncontaminated soil and to soils contaminated with cadmium, copper, lead, and zinc collected from seven sites at different distances from a smelting works at Avonmouth, southwest England. The survival, growth (= weight after 5 weeks exposure), time to sexual maturation (= percentages of adults present after 8 weeks), and reproduction (= number of cocoons produced by the worms) were compared with soil metal concentrations. Of the parameters measured, growth and sexual maturation time had the lowest EC-50 values. The effects of metal-contaminated soils could be attributed both to the direct toxicity of the metals and to changes in the "scope for growth" of the exposed worms. A comparison of the results with those of an earlier toxicity test conducted with adult worms indicated that juveniles are more sensitive to metals than adults. Significant toxic effects on the growth and sexual maturation times of juveniles were detected in soils from sites for which no significant effects on the cocoon production of adults could be detected. The greater sensitivity of juvenile worms indicates the importance of considering effects on a variety of life history stages when conducting a risk assessment of the effects of pollutants in soils. Although E. fetida does not occur naturally in soils at Avonmouth, the present study provides evidence to support the suggestion that pollution from the smelter is responsible for the absence of worms within 2 km of the factory. Results presented in this paper, and from previous studies, suggest the observed absence is due to the effects of zinc on the growth and maturation of juveniles and the cocoon production rate of adult worms.


PMID: 8930509

DOI: 10.1006/eesa.1996.0085

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