Journal of Soils and Sediments

, Volume 13, Issue 2, pp 429–440 | Cite as

Assessing metal bioaccumulation from estuarine sediments: comparative experimental results for the polychaete Arenicola marina

  • M. Carmen Casado-MartinezEmail author
  • Brian D. Smith
  • Philip S. Rainbow



The purpose of this paper is to compare three approaches for providing information on the bioaccumulation potential of metals from contaminated sediments to the deposit-feeding polychaete Arenicola marina.

Materials and methods

We present metal (Ag, As, Cd, Cu, Pb and Zn) bioaccumulation results from field-collected sediments quantified through direct measurements of bioaccumulated concentrations in A. marina over a period of 30 days under controlled laboratory exposures and compare these results with bioaccumulated metal concentrations in field-collected organisms from the same sites of collection of the sediments used in the laboratory exposures. For the metals for which model parameters are available (Ag, As, Cd and Zn), we also compare these results with biodynamic model predictions. We considered three UK estuaries characterised by a well-reported history of trace metal contamination and bioavailability in addition to the (control) site of collection of the worms.

Results and discussion

The results from laboratory-exposed organisms showed that the standard 28-day exposure duration may be adequate to identify the potential for metal bioaccumulation in this polychaete at the sites considered here. However, the time course of bioaccumulated concentrations and the comparison with measured concentrations in field-collected worms show that a steady state has not been reached, confirming the need for extended exposure periods. The worms showed symptoms of stress in feeding and growth during the initial 10 days of exposure and subsequent partial recovery during the following 20 days, suggesting that stress was not always caused by sediment contamination but that it was likely associated with handling and acclimation. At this last stage of the exposure, a generalised biodynamic model was used to provide estimates of bioaccumulated metal concentrations and net accumulation rates in worms.


The results of this study highlight the number of factors that should be considered for the interpretation of bioaccumulated metal concentrations in A. marina under laboratory exposures for contaminated sediment assessment, factors that appear to be common to most deposit-feeding polychaetes. A general biodynamic model proved to be a cost-effective method for an initial estimation of the extent and pattern of metal bioaccumulation under specified exposure conditions.


Arsenic Bioaccumulation test Biodynamic model Cadmium Deposit feeder Silver Zinc 



This project was financially supported by the European Community's Seventh Framework Program through a Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowship to MCCM (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement no. PIEF-GA-2008-219781 and the Ramon Areces Foundation. MCCM acknowledges the financial support from the multidisciplinary research and education project Environmental Waste Management (EWMA) during the writing of this manuscript at the University of Tromsø.

Supplementary material

11368_2012_611_MOESM1_ESM.doc (75 kb)
ESM 1 (DOC 75 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. Carmen Casado-Martinez
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Brian D. Smith
    • 1
  • Philip S. Rainbow
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of ZoologyThe Natural History MuseumLondonUK
  2. 2.Ecotox Centre, Swiss Center for Applied EcotoxicologyEawag/EPFLLausanneSwitzerland

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