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Environ Pollut. 2005 Jul;136(2):275-81.

Influence of soil zinc concentrations on zinc sensitivity and functional diversity of microbial communities.

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


Pollution induced community tolerance (PICT) is based on the phenomenon that toxic effects reduce survival of the most sensitive organisms, thus increasing community tolerance. Community tolerance for a contaminant is thus a strong indicator for the presence of that contaminant at the level of adverse concentrations. Here we assessed PICT in 11 soils contaminated with zinc runoff from galvanised electricity pylons and 11 reference soils sampled at 10 m distance from these pylons. Using PICT, the influence of background concentration and bioavailability of zinc on zinc sensitivity and functional diversity of microbial communities was assessed. Zinc sensitivity of microbial communities decreased significantly with increasing zinc concentrations in pore water and calcium chloride extracted fraction while no significant relationship was found with total zinc concentration in the soil. It was also found that functional diversity of microbial communities decreased with increasing zinc concentrations, indicating that increased tolerance is indeed an undesirable phenomenon when environmental quality is considered. The hypothesis that zinc sensitivity of microbial communities is related to background zinc concentration in pore water could not be confirmed.

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