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Hierarchical Responses of Soil Invertebrates (Earthworms) to Toxic Metal Stress

Spurgeon, David J., Ricketts, Huw, Svendsen, Claus, Morgan, Andrew John and Kille, Peter 2005. Hierarchical Responses of Soil Invertebrates (Earthworms) to Toxic Metal Stress. Environmental Science & Technology 39 (14) , 5327 - 5334. 10.1021/es050033k

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The concept of a hierarchical cascade of biological responses to stress occurring across different levels of biological organization is an underlying principle of both theoretical and regulatory ecology/ecotoxicology. This study investigates the reality of this cascade for earthworms exposed to toxic metal stress. Gene expression was the most sensitive endpoint (EC50 = 616 ?g Zn g-1) followed by the integrity of coelomocyte lysosomal membrane (EC50 = 645 ?g Zn g-1). This confirms that, in accordance with the cascade concept, suborganism level endpoints respond at lower metal concentrations than higher organization endpoints. The relative sensitivity of the higher organization parameters was not as predicted by the cascade. Organic material removal was more sensitive (EC50 = 997 ?g Zn g-1) than L. rubellus reproduction (EC50 = 3236 ?g Zn g-1), L. rubellus population size (EC50 = 5000?11500 ?g Zn g-1), and earthworm community diversity (EC50 = 1737 ?g Zn g-1). This can be attributed to (1) the relative insensitivity of L. rubellus to metals and (2) general toxic effects of metals on the earthworm energy budget (and thus feeding). On the basis of these results, it can be concluded that predictive assessments of the consequences of environmental stressors needs to include approaches that respect the relative sensitivities of different taxa, while retrospective appraisals should exploit the sensitivity of low organization level responses.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Biosciences
ISSN: 0013-936X
Last Modified: 23 Jul 2020 01:58

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