Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 22, Issue 7, pp 5283–5292 | Cite as

Experimental determinations of soil copper toxicity to lettuce (Lactuca sativa) growth in highly different copper spiked and aged soils

  • Karen S. Christiansen
  • Ole K. Borggaard
  • Peter E. Holm
  • Martina G. Vijver
  • Michael Z. Hauschild
  • Willie J. G. M. Peijnenburg
Research Article


Accurate knowledge about factors and conditions determining copper (Cu) toxicity in soil is needed for predicting plant growth in various Cu-contaminated soils. Therefore, effects of Cu on growth (biomass production) of lettuce (Lactuca sativa) were tested on seven selected, very different soils spiked with Cu and aged for 2 months at 35 °C. Cu toxicity was expressed as pEC50(Cu2+), i.e., the negative logarithm of the EC50(Cu2+) activity to plant growth. The determined pEC50(Cu2+) was significantly and positively correlated with both the analytically readily available soil pH and concentration of dissolved organic carbon [DOC] which together could explain 87 % of the pEC50(Cu2+) variation according to the simple equation: pEC50(Cu2+) = 0.98 × pH + 345 × [DOC] − 0.27. Other soil characteristics, including the base cation concentrations (Na+, K+, Ca2+, Mg2+), the cation exchange capacity at soil pH (ECEC), and at pH 7 (CEC7), soil organic carbon, clay content, and electric conductivity as well as the distribution coefficient (Kd) calculated as the ratio between total soil Cu and water-extractable Cu did not correlate significantly with pEC50(Cu2+). Consequently, Cu toxicity, expressed as the negative log of the Cu2+ activity, to plant growth increases at increasing pH and DOC, which needs to be considered in future management of plant growth on Cu-contaminated soils. The developed regression equation allows identification of soil types in which the phytotoxicity potential of Cu is highest.


Cu DOC pH EC50 Soil contamination LCA 

Supplementary material

11356_2014_3737_MOESM1_ESM.docx (25 kb)
Fig. S1Relationship between measured pCu (pCuISE) and calculated pCu in water extracts based on 75 Cu-spiked Dutch soil samples (W.J.G.M. Peijnenburg, Unpublished results). The solid line represents the linear regression line. (DOCX 25 kb)
11356_2014_3737_MOESM2_ESM.docx (49 kb)
Fig. S2The observed EC50(Cu2+) and the EC50 (Cu2+) calculated (predicted) by the pH-dependence (pEC50(Cu2+) = 0.86×pH + 1.48) reported by Le et al. (2012) for root elongation of lettuce (Lactuca sativa) grown in hydroponic solution. R2 = 0.55, n =7. (DOCX 48 kb)
11356_2014_3737_MOESM3_ESM.docx (15 kb)
Table S1Data from Zhang et al. (2013) including pH and DOC concentration of pore water samples from 17 Cu-spiked, Chinese soils together with pEC50(Cu2+) calculated by Visual Minteq (pEC50(Cu2+){Zhang}) and by means of Eq. 2 (pEC50(Cu2+){KSC}). (DOCX 15 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Karen S. Christiansen
    • 1
  • Ole K. Borggaard
    • 1
  • Peter E. Holm
    • 1
  • Martina G. Vijver
    • 2
  • Michael Z. Hauschild
    • 3
  • Willie J. G. M. Peijnenburg
    • 2
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Faculty of SciencesUniversity of CopenhagenFrederiksbergDenmark
  2. 2.Institute of Environmental Sciences (CML)University of LeidenLeidenThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Section of Quantitative Sustainability Assessment, DTU Management EngineeringTechnical University of DenmarkKgs LyngbyDenmark
  4. 4.Center for Safety of Substances and ProductsNational Institute of Public Health and the EnvironmentBilthovenThe Netherlands

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