This study investigated the impact of epigeic and (epi)anecic earthworms on the distribution and availability of zinc in the soil profile. Experiments were carried out with Lumbricus rubellus and Lumbricus terrestris in perspex columns (Ø 10 cm), filled with 20 to 23 cm non-polluted soil [organic matter 2%, clay 2.9%, pH 6.4 (0.01 M CaCl2)], that was covered by a 3- to 5-cm layer of aged zinc-spiked soil (500 mg Zn/kg dry soil) and another 2 cm non-polluted soil on top. After 80 days, columns were sacrificed and sampled in a depth profile. Earthworm casts, deposited on top of the soil, were collected. Each sample was analyzed for total and 0.01 M CaCl2-exchangeable zinc concentrations. L. rubellus did not go deeper than 3 cm into the soil and therefore no effect on zinc distribution in the soil could be detected. For L. terrestris, total zinc concentrations in the non-polluted layers were slightly but significantly higher in columns with earthworms, and so were the CaCl2-exchangeable zinc concentrations in the polluted layers of these columns. Casts of L. terrestris collected from the soil surface showed higher total zinc concentrations than those from non-polluted soil. Casts were mainly placed on top of the soil. This study showed that these epigeic and (epi)anecic species have only a slight effect on zinc availability, and that deep burrowing species, like L. terrestris, are able to transport polluted soil from deeper layers to the soil surface.
Earthworms Heavy metals Zinc Bioturbation Availability