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Environ Pollut. 2003;126(3):371-4.

Influence of ageing on zinc bioavailability in soils.

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Laboratory of Environmental Toxicology and Aquatic Ecology, Ghent University, J. Plateaustraat 22, 9000 Gent, Belgium.


Currently, soil quality criteria or soil risk assessments of metals are based on laboratory toxicity tests which are carried out in soils freshly spiked with metal salts. With these data, species sensitivity distributions are fitted, from which hazardous concentrations and predicted no effect concentrations are derived. However, due to long-term processes, called ageing, soil metal availability decreases with time. Here we show that pH is the most important parameter determining the effect of ageing on zinc partitioning in soils, with the effect of ageing becoming more important with increasing pH. Furthermore, zinc bioavailability, expressed as the internal zinc concentrations in red clover (Trifolium pratense) is closely related to pore water zinc concentration. In addition, there is a clear dose-response relationship between the survival of the earthworm Eisenia fetida and the calcium chloride-extracted zinc fraction. These results indicate that zinc partitioning can be used to predict zinc bioavailability to terrestrial organisms. However, the use of spiked soils in toxicity assays can result in an over-estimation of the effects of zinc, especially at a high pH.

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