, Volume 4, Issue 3, pp 190–205 | Cite as

Extrapolation of the laboratory-based OECD earthworm toxicity test to metal-contaminated field sites

  • David J. Spurgeon
  • S. P. Hopkin

The effects of cadmium, copper, lead and zinc on survival, growth, cocoon production and cocoon viability of the earthworm Eisenia fetida (Savigny) were determined in three experiments. In experiment 1, worms were exposed to single metals in standard artificial soil. For experiment 2, worms were maintained in contaminated soils collected from sites at different distances from a smelting works situated at Avonmouth, south-west England. In experiment 3, worms were exposed to mixtures of metals in artificial soil at the same concentrations as those present in the field soils. A survey of earthworm populations was carried out also. Population densities and species diversities of earthworms declined with proximity to the smelting works. No earthworms were found within 1 km of the factory. Comparison of toxicity values for the metals determined in the experiments indicated that zinc is most likely to be limiting earthworm populations in the vicinity of the works. Zinc was at least ten times more toxic to E. fetida in artificial soil than in contaminated soils collected from the field. This difference was probably due to the greater bioavailability of zinc in the artificial soil. The results are discussed in the context of setting ‘protection levels’ for metals in soils based on laboratory toxicity data.


ecotoxicology Eisenia fetida zinc toxicity mapping 


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Copyright information

© Chapman & Hall 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • David J. Spurgeon
    • 1
  • S. P. Hopkin
    • 1
  1. 1.Ecotoxicology Group, School of Animal and Microbial SciencesUniversity of ReadingReadingUK

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