Effects of soil acid stress on the survival, growth, reproduction, antioxidant enzyme activities, and protein contents in earthworm (Eisenia fetida)

  • Jialong Wu
  • Zongling RenEmail author
  • Chi Zhang
  • Mikael Motelica-Heino
  • Ting Deng
  • Haoyu Wang
  • Jun DaiEmail author
Earthworm and Soil Pollution


This study focused on the study of earthworm survival, growth, reproduction, enzyme activities, and protein contents to evaluate and predict the effects of different soil pH levels and determine the optimal risk assessment indicators for the effects. Survival rate, growth rate, and cocoon number as well as four enzyme (glutathione peroxidase (GSH-PX), superoxide dismutase (SOD), peroxidase (POD), and catalase (CAT)) activities and two proteins (total protein (TP) and metallothionein (MT)) contents in earthworms were determined to characterize the responses of earthworm activity to five soil pH levels. These biological datasets (survival, growth, and reproduction) were compared with biochemical indexes (GSH-PX, SOD, POD, CAT, TP, and MT), mainly using biphasic dose-response models. The results indicated that the soil pH value had significant inhibitory effects on the survival, growth, and reproduction of earthworms beginning with 3.0, 4.0, and 5.2, respectively. The dose-response models (J-shaped and inverted U-shaped curves) statistics indicated that the critical values (ECZEP) of the GSH-PX, SOD, POD, CAT, TP, and MT inhibited by soil acid stress were 3.46, 3.76, 3.35, 3.54, 3.50, and 3.96 (average 3.60), respectively. In the present study, the fitting curve analysis showed that the responses of the CAT activities and TP and MT contents in earthworm in response to soil pH have the behavior of hormesis.


Soil acidity Growth Reproduction Biochemical response Hormetic effect Eisenia fetida 


Funding information

This research was supported by the Natural Science Foundation of China (U1401234, 41601227 and 41701262) and the National Key Research and Development Program of China (2016YFD0800300, 2016YFD0201301).

Compliance with ethical standards

Human and animal rights and informed consent

We declare that these experiments were conducted in accordance with EC Directive 86/609/EEC and national and institutional guidelines for the protection of human subjects and animal welfare.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jialong Wu
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  • Zongling Ren
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
    Email author
  • Chi Zhang
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  • Mikael Motelica-Heino
    • 5
  • Ting Deng
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  • Haoyu Wang
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  • Jun Dai
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
    Email author
  1. 1.College of Natural Resources and EnvironmentSouth China Agricultural UniversityGuangzhouChina
  2. 2.Key Laboratory of Arable Land Conservation in South China, Ministry of Agriculture People’s Republic of ChinaGuangzhouChina
  3. 3.Key Laboratory of the Ministry of Land and Resources for Construction Land TransformationGuangzhouChina
  4. 4.Guangdong Province Key Laboratory of Land Use and ConsolidationGuangzhouChina
  5. 5.Université d’Orléans, CNRS/INSU Institut des Sciences de la Terre d’OrléansOrléansFrance

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