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Environ Toxicol Chem. 2001 Oct;20(10):2287-95.

Pollution-induced community tolerance and functional redundancy in a decomposer food web in metal-stressed soil.

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University of Helsinki, Department of Ecological and Environmental Sciences, Lahti, Finland.


Pollution may lead to the development of pollution-induced community tolerance (PICT) in a stressed community. We studied the presence of PICT in soil food webs using soil microcosms. Soil microcosms containing soil invertebrates and microbes were collected from polluted and unpolluted areas and exposed to a range of soil zinc concentrations. A pine seedling was planted in each microcosm to measure the effects of the origin of the community and Zn pollution on above-ground plant production. The effects of the treatments on nutrient content in the soil were also measured. The diversity of soil microarthropods and the soil's mineral nutrient content were low at the Zn-polluted site. We did not observe an increasing Zn tolerance among the soil organisms in the polluted soil. However, low population growth rates of soil invertebrates from the polluted site may indicate the deleterious effects on fitness of long-lasting pollution. In the soil from the nonpolluted site, Zn additions caused changes in the invertebrate food web structure. These changes were explained by the good physiological condition of the animals and their insensitivity to Zn. The fact that the food web structure in soil from the polluted site did not change can be used as a rough indicator of PICT. Structural stability is presumed by the lack of Zn-sensitive species at this site and the inability of populations to acclimate by altering their growth or reproduction patterns in response to changing soil conditions. Although microbial-based soil decomposer systems may have a high functional redundancy, our results indicate that metal stress at the polluted site exceeds the tolerance limits of the system. As a consequence, ecosystem function at this site is endangered. This study also shows that the evolution of metal tolerance by soil decomposer organisms may not be a common reaction to soil pollution, although changes of population and community structure indicated severe metal stress on organisms.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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