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Short-term and long-term effects of cadmium, chromium, copper, nickel, lead and zinc on soil microbial respiration in relation to abiotic soil factors


The inhibition of the respiration rate by the heavy metals, Cd, Cr, Cu, Pb, Ni and Zn was investigated in five Dutch soil types in relation to the length of time these heavy metals were present in the soil. The amounts of heavy metal added as chloride salts to the soils were 0, 55, 150, 400, 1000, 3000 and 8000 μg·g−1, respectively. The measurements were carried out both immediately after the addition of the heavy metals and approximately 18 months later. The inhibition during the first two to eight weeks was not obscured by an extra nutrient flush to drying. During the 18 months, the toxicity decreased but was still significant. Inhibition was greatest in the sandy soil and least in the clay soil. In a loam soil and in a sandy peat soil, the inhibiting effects were intermediate, but distinct. The main abiotic factors responsible for these different degrees of inhibition were the clay fraction for Cd, the Fe content for Cu, Pb and Zn and the pH for Ni. Although clay, Fe, and Mn together with the organic matter fraction, determine the total cation exchange capacity of soil, their contribution to the toxicity of heavy metals may be antagonistic. The latter may increase the mobility due to chelation and therefore possibly increase the toxicity, while the other factors may bind the heavy metals and therefore decrease the toxicity.

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Doelman, P., Haanstra, L. Short-term and long-term effects of cadmium, chromium, copper, nickel, lead and zinc on soil microbial respiration in relation to abiotic soil factors. Plant Soil 79, 317–327 (1984).

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Key words

  • Cd
  • CEC
  • Clay
  • Cr
  • Cu
  • Fe
  • Long-term
  • Mn
  • Ni
  • Organic matter
  • Pb
  • pH
  • Short-term
  • Soil microbial respiration
  • Zn