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Impact of Eisenia fetida earthworms and biochar on potentially toxic element mobility and health of a contaminated soil

Garau, M., Sizmur, T. ORCID:, Coole, S., Castaldi, P. and Garau, G. (2022) Impact of Eisenia fetida earthworms and biochar on potentially toxic element mobility and health of a contaminated soil. Science of the Total Environment, 806 (3). 151255. ISSN 0048-9697

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.151255


This study aimed to evaluate the influence of Eisenia fetida (Savigny), added to an acidic soil contaminated with potentially toxic elements (PTEs; As, Sb, Cd, Pb, Zn) and amended with a softwood-derived biochar (2 and 5% w/w), on the mobility of PTEs and soil health (i.e. nutrient availability, enzyme activity and soil basal respiration). The PTEs bioaccumulation by E. fetida and the acute ecotoxicity effects of the amended soils were also evaluated. The interaction between earthworms and biochar led to a significant increase in soil pH, organic matter, dissolved organic carbon content, cation exchange capacity, and exchangeable Ca compared to the untreated soil. Moreover, the water-soluble and readily exchangeable PTE fraction decreased (with the exception of Sb) between 1.2- and 3.0-fold in the presence of biochar and earthworms. Earthworms, biochar, and their combination, led to a reduction of phosphomonoesterase activity which in soils amended with biochar and earthworms decreased between 2.2- and 2.5-fold with respect to the untreated soil. On the other hand, biochar and earthworms also enhanced soil basal respiration and protease activity. Although the survival rate and the weight loss of E. fetida did not change significantly with the addition of 2% biochar, adding the highest biochar percentage (5%) resulted in a survival rate that was ~2-fold lower and a weight loss that was 2.5-fold higher than the other treatments. The PTE bioaccumulation factors for E. fetida, which were less than 1 for all elements (except Cd), followed the order Cd>As>Zn>Cu>Pb>Sb and were further decreased by biochar addition. Overall, these results highlight that E. fetida and biochar, especially at 2% rate, could be used for the restoration of soil functionality in PTE-polluted environments, reducing at the same time the environmental risks posed by PTEs, at least in the short time.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Earth Systems Science
Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Department of Geography and Environmental Science
Interdisciplinary centres and themes > Soil Research Centre
ID Code:101013


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