Date: 05 Feb 2010

Toxicological Responses of Red-Backed Salamander (Plethodon cinereus ) Exposed to Aged and Amended Soils Containing Lead

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The use of lead in military and civilian small arms projectiles is widely acknowledged to have resulted in high soil lead concentrations at many small arms ranges. These ranges are often adjacent to wildlife habitat or have become habitat when no longer used. To assess the potential toxicity of lead to terrestrial amphibians in contaminated areas, we exposed 100 red-backed salamanders (Plethodon cinereus) to either a control soil or one of four soil treatments amended with lead acetate for 28 days. Analytical mean soil concentrations were 14 (control), 553, 1700, 4700, and 9167 mg Pb/kg soil dry weight. An additional 60 salamanders were also exposed for 28 days to one of six field-collected soil samples from a small arms range and a skeet range. The field soil concentrations ranged from 11 (background) to 16,967 mg Pb/kg soil dry weight. Food consisted of uncontaminated flightless Drosophila melanogaster. Salamander survival was reduced in amended soil treatments of 4700 and 9167 mg/kg by 15% and 80%, respectively. Inappetence was observed at 4700 and 9167 mg/kg and growth decreased in the 9167 mg/kg treatment. Total white blood cells decreased 32% at 4700 mg/kg compared to controls and were 22% lower in the 9167 mg/kg treatment. In contrast, survival was 100% for all field-collected soils with no hematological effects. At 16,967 mg/kg there was evidence of soil avoidance and decreased growth. These data suggest marked differences in toxicity and bioavailability of the lead-amended soil in contrast to the field-collected soil containing lead.