Soil Testate Amoebae and Diatoms as Bioindicators of an Old Heavy Metal Contaminated Floodplain in Japan


Soil protists are rarely included in ecotoxicological investigations, despite their fundamental role in ecological processes. Moreover, testate amoebae and diatoms contribute considerably to silicon fluxes in soils. We investigated the effects of heavy metals on testate amoebae (species and individual densities) and diatoms (individual densities) in aged soils of a floodplain (Watarase retarding basin, Japan) taking soil samples from two unpolluted reference sites and two polluted sites. The total concentrations of Cu, Pb, and Zn in soil were higher at the polluted sites as compared with the reference sites. The available concentrations of Co, Cu, and Zn in CaCl2 extracts were higher at the polluted sites but available Pb was not detectable. Testate amoeba taxonomic richness was higher in the reference sites (45/38 taxa) than in the polluted sites (36/27 taxa). The reference sites had higher diatom and amoeba densities than the polluted sites. There was a significant negative correlation between total testate amoeba density and heavy metal concentration (available Co), while significant negative correlations were found between diatom density and Co, Cu, and Zn (available and total concentration). Densities of Cyclopyxis kahli cyclostoma, Centropyxis spp., and Trinema complanatum were negatively correlated to concentrations of available heavy metals. The observed decrease in individual numbers due to heavy metal pollution resulted in a considerable decline in protozoic (testate amoebae) and protophytic (pennate diatoms) silicon pools. Our data suggest that heavy metal pollution affects biogeochemical cycling in this system.

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We greatly thank Dr. Takafumi Kamitani (Shizuoka Institute of Environment and Hygiene) and Prof. Nobuhiro Kaneko (Faculty of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Fukushima University) for coordinates of Watarase sites and local authorities for soil sampling permission. We thank for permission from the Tonegawa Upstream Office of River, Kanto Regional Development Bureau, Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism and support by Mr. Takashi Yamada of the office. The laboratory team of the Dept. Soil Protection and Recultivation, BTU Cottbus-Senftenberg, kindly conducted the heavy metal analyses.

Funding Information

DP was funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) under grant PU 626/2-1 (Biogenic Silicon in Agricultural Landscapes (BiSiAL)—Quantification, Qualitative Characterization, and Importance for Si Balances of Agricultural Biogeosystems). This study was supported by The Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS, grant number S16738, MW) and by the JSPS KAKENHI (15H02858, SS).

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Correspondence to Manfred Wanner.

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Wanner, M., Birkhofer, K., Fischer, T. et al. Soil Testate Amoebae and Diatoms as Bioindicators of an Old Heavy Metal Contaminated Floodplain in Japan. Microb Ecol 79, 123–133 (2020) doi:10.1007/s00248-019-01383-x

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  • Soil protists
  • Heavy metals
  • Silicon
  • Aged soils
  • Floodplain