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Sci Total Environ. 2008 Dec 1;406(3):385-95. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2008.05.050. Epub 2008 Jul 14.

Physico-chemical and biological parameters determine metal bioavailability in soils.

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  • 1Institute of Ecological Science, Department of Animal Ecology, Vrije Universiteit, De Boelelaan 1085, 1081 HV Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


The Netherlands Stimulation program on System-oriented Ecotoxicological Research focused on three study areas, including two floodplains and a peaty grassland. All three areas were polluted with metals, with total soil concentrations often exceeding Dutch Intervention Values. The floodplain areas showed a homogeneous distribution of metal pollution, while pollution in the peaty area was more heterogeneous. This study aimed at establishing possible general trends in metal bioavailability by combining results obtained at the three different study sites. Available metal concentrations, measured as pore water or 0.01 M CaCl2 extractable concentrations in soil, were lowest in the floodplain soils, probably due to the high pH (> 7.0) and high organic matter (8-30%) and clay contents (13-42%). In the peaty soil, having a lower soil pH (4.5-6.5) but higher organic matter contents (38-60%), in some but not all samples Cu concentrations in pore water and Cu and Pb concentrations in 0.01 CaCl2 extracts were higher than in non-polluted reference areas. Plants in the floodplain areas had only low metal concentrations in their leaves, but soil invertebrates and small mammals did contain elevated concentrations in their body. Cd showed high levels in earthworms, snails and small mammals, while also Cu levels were sometimes increased in earthworms, millipedes and small mammals from the floodplain areas. Earthworms from the peaty area contained increased levels of Cu and Pb. These results suggest that metal bioavailability cannot be predicted from available concentrations in pore water or 0.01 M CaCl2 soil extracts, but requires measurement of biota and more insight into the biodynamics of metal uptake.

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