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A comparative study of the effects of metal contamination on collembola in the field and in the laboratory

Fountain, M. T. and Hopkin, S. P. (2004) A comparative study of the effects of metal contamination on collembola in the field and in the laboratory. Ecotoxicology, 13 (6). pp. 573-587. ISSN 0963-9292

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1023/B:ECTX.0000037194.66321.2c


We examined the species diversity and abundance of Collembola at 32 sampling points along a gradient of metal contamination in a rough grassland site ( Wolverhampton, England), formerly used for the disposal of metal-rich smelting waste. Differences in the concentrations of Cd, Cu, Pb and Zn between the least and most contaminated part of the 35 metre transect were more than one order of magnitude. A gradient of Zn concentrations from 597 to 9080 mug g(-1) dry soil was found. A comparison between field concentrations of the four metals and previous studies on their relative toxicities to Collembola, suggested that Zn is likely to be responsible for any ecotoxicological effects on springtails at this site. Euedaphic ( soil dwelling) Collembola were extracted by placing soil cores into Tullgren funnels and epedaphic ( surface dwelling) species were sampled using pitfall traps. There was no obvious relationship between the total abundance, or a range of commonly used diversity indices, and Zn levels in soils. However, individual species showed considerable differences in abundance. Metal "tolerant'' (e.g., Ceratophysella denticulata) and metal "sensitive'' (e.g., Cryptopygus thermophilus) species could be identified. Epedaphic species appeared to be influenced less by metal contamination than euedaphic species. This difference is probably due to the higher mobility and lower contact with the soil pore water of epedaphic springtails in comparison to euedaphic Collembola. In an experiment exposing the standard test springtail, Folsomia candida, to soils from all 32 sampling points, adult survival and reproduction showed small but significant negative relationships with total Zn concentrations. Nevertheless, juveniles were still produced from eggs laid by females in the most contaminated soils with 9080 mug g(-1) Zn. Folsomia candida is much more sensitive to equivalent concentrations of Zn in the standard OECD soil. Thus, care should be taken in extrapolating the results of laboratory toxicity tests on metals in OECD soil to field soils, in which, the biological availability of contaminants is likely to be lower. Our studies have shown the importance of ecotoxicological effects at the species level. Although there may be no differences in overall abundance, sensitive species that are numerous in contaminated sites, and which may play important roles in decomposition("keystone species'') can be greatly reduced in numbers by pollution.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Agriculture, Policy and Development
Interdisciplinary centres and themes > Soil Research Centre
ID Code:8513

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