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Environ Sci Technol. 2005 Aug 1;39(15):5694-702.

Development of a biotic ligand model and a regression model predicting acute copper toxicity to the earthworm Aporrectodea caliginosa.

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Laboratory for Ecological Risk Assessment, National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, PO Box 1, 3720 BA Bilthoven, The Netherlands.


The purpose of this study was to develop a terrestrial biotic ligand model (BLM) for predicting acute copper toxicity to the earthworm Aporrectodea caliginosa. To overcome the basic problems hampering development of BLMs for terrestrial organisms, an artificial flow-through exposure system was developed consisting of an inert quartz sand matrix and a nutrient solution, of which the composition was univariately modified. A. caliginosa was exposed for 7 days under varying concentrations of copper and the major cations modifying toxicity: H+, Ca2+, Mg2+, and Na+. In addition copper speciation was modulated by means of EDTA or dissolved organic carbon (DOC). An increase in pH or pNa resulted in a linear decrease of 7-days median lethal concentrations. Increasing Ca2+ and Mg2+ activities had inconsistent effects. EDTA addition decreased toxicity when the total copper concentration in the pore water was kept the same. This is attributed to the strong complexation capacity of EDTA and shows that total copper is not the toxic species. DOC was more protective than could be explained by its metal complexing properties. The BLM developed incorporates the effects of H+ and Na+. This BLM was validated with the results of a set of bioassays with artificial pore water in quartz sand and by a set of bioassays in spiked field soils. Prediction error was within a factor of 2, but some predictions were not within the 95% confidence interval. Therefore a more widely applicable regression type model was developed that was able to explain >95% of the (lack of) toxicity observed. To our knowledge this is the first report of the successful development of a terrestrial BLM.

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