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Influence of soil pH on the toxicity of aluminium for Eisenia andrei (Oligochaeta: Lumbricidae) in an artificial soil substrate

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Toxicity of aluminium for the earthworm Eisenia andrei was studied in artificial soil at different pH levels. In a range-finding test, effects of three different aluminium salts on earthworm survival were determined. AlCl3 appeared to be most toxic, with LC50 values of 316, 359 and >1000 mg Al/kg dry soil at pHKCl of 3.5, 4.4 and 6.7, respectively in the control soils. Effects of this salt interfered with a strong decrease of soil pH with increasing aluminium concentration. Al2(SO4)3 was less toxic with LC50 values of 457, >4000 and >4000 mg Al/kg dry soil at pH 3.24, 4.86 and 7.22, respectively. Al2O3 did not affect earthworm survival at concentrations of 5000 mg Al/kg and pH levels between 2.4 and 7.1.

In the main test, earthworms were exposed for 6 weeks to soils treated with Al2(SO4)3. As in the range-finding test, aluminium sulfate was most toxic at a pH of 3.4 with an LC50 of 589 mg Al/kg dry soil. At this pH, growth and cocoon production of earthworms were significantly reduced at 320 mg Al/kg dry soil, while at 1000 mg Al/kg dry soil all earthworms died. Survival was not affected by 1000 mg Al/kg dry soil at pH 4.3 and 7.3. At pH 4.3, growth was significantly reduced at 1000 mg Al/kg dry soil and cocoon production at 320 and 1000 mg Al/kg dry soil. At pH 7.3, aluminium only affected cocoon production at the two highest exposure levels. At the highest two exposure levels at pH 7.3, growth was significantly increased, suggesting a trade-off between growth and reproduction. These effects of aluminium at the highest soil pH could not be explained from the concentration of extractable, monomeric (labile) aluminium in soil, which decreased with increasing soil pH.
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Keywords: Aluminium; bioavailability; cocoon production; earthworms; soil pH; toxicity

Document Type: Miscellaneous

Affiliations: National Institute of Public Health and the Environment, P.O. Box 1, 3720 BA Bilthoven, The Netherlands

Publication date: 2001-09-01

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