Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 23, Issue 11, pp 10679–10692 | Cite as

On the bioavailability of trace metals in surface sediments: a combined geochemical and biological approach

  • Stéphanie RoosaEmail author
  • Emilie Prygiel
  • Ludovic Lesven
  • Ruddy Wattiez
  • David Gillan
  • Benoît J. D. Ferrari
  • Justine Criquet
  • Gabriel Billon
Research Article


The bioavailability of metals was estimated in three river sediments (Sensée, Scarpe, and Deûle Rivers) impacted by different levels of Cu, Cd, Pb, and Zn (Northern France). For that, a combination of geochemistry and biological responses (bacteria and chironomids) was used. The results obtained illustrate the complexity of the notion of “bioavailability.” Indeed, geochemical indexes suggested a low toxicity, even in surface sediments with high concentrations of total metals and a predicted severe effect levels for the organisms. This was also suggested by the abundance of total bacteria as determined by DAPI counts, with high bacterial cell numbers even in contaminated areas. However, a fraction of metals may be bioavailable as it was shown for chironomid larvae which were able to accumulate an important quantity of metals in surface sediments within just a few days.

We concluded that (1) the best approach to estimate bioavailability in the selected sediments is a combination of geochemical and biological approaches and that (2) the sediments in the Deûle and Scarpe Rivers are highly contaminated and may impact bacterial populations but also benthic invertebrates.


Metals Toxicity index Bacterial community Chironomid Bioaccumulation 



This work was supported by a FRIA grant to Stéphanie Roosa and a FNRS grant to David C. Gillan and Ruddy Wattiez (FRFC Nr 2.4577.12). The authors would like to thank David Dumoulin, Veronique Alaimo, and Christine Grare for their technical assistance. This study was also partly funded by Voies Navigables de France, l’Agence de l’Eau Artois-Picardie, and the Region Nord-Pas de Calais.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Unité biotechnologie, Materia NovaGhislenghienBelgium
  2. 2.Proteomics and Microbiology Lab, Research Institute for BiosciencesMons UniversityMonsBelgium
  3. 3.Laboratory LASIR (UMR 8516 CNRS–Université Lille 1)Villeneuve d’AscqFrance
  4. 4.Centre Ecotox Eawag/EPFL, EPFL-ENAC-IIE-GELausanneSwitzerland

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