Toxicity of heavy metals to microorganisms and microbial processes in agricultural soils: a review

A - Papers appearing in refereed journals

Giller, K. E., Witter, E. and McGrath, S. P. 1998. Toxicity of heavy metals to microorganisms and microbial processes in agricultural soils: a review. Soil Biology and Biochemistry. 30 (10-11), pp. 1389-1414.

AuthorsGiller, K. E., Witter, E. and McGrath, S. P.

An increasing body of evidence suggests that microorganisms are far more sensitive to heavy metal stress than soil animals or plants growing on the same soils. Not surprisingly, most studies of heavy metal toxicity to soil microorganisms have concentrated on effects where loss of microbial Function can be observed and yet such studies may mask underlying effects on biodiversify within microbial populations and communities. The types of evidence which are available for determining critical metal concentrations or loadings for microbial processes and populations in agricultural soil are assessed, particularly in relation to the agricultural use of sewage sludge. Much of the confusion in deriving critical toxic concentrations of heavy metals in soils arises from comparison of experimental results based on short-term laboratory ecotoxicological studies with results from monitoring of longterm exposures of microbial populations to heavy metals in field experiments. The laboratory studies in effect measure responses to immediate, acute toxicity (disturbance) whereas the monitoring of field experiments measures responses to long-term chronic toxicity (stress) which accumulates gradually. Laboratory ecotoxicological studies are the most easily conducted and by far the most numerous, but are difficult to extrapolate meaningfully to toxic effects likely to occur in the field. Using evidence primarily derived from long-term field experiments, a hypothesis is formulated to explain how microorganisms may become affected by gradually increasing soil metal concentrations and this is discussed in relation to defining "safe" or "critical" soil metal loadings for soil protection.  

KeywordsRRES175; 175_Soil science; 175_Long-term experiments; 175_Biochemistry
Year of Publication1998
JournalSoil Biology and Biochemistry
Journal citation30 (10-11), pp. 1389-1414
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Open accessPublished as non-open access
Funder project or code219
Project: 031636
Project: 031542
Project: 031541
Project: 031543
Project: 031779
Publication dates
Online27 Aug 1998
Publication process dates
Accepted30 Oct 1997
Copyright licensePublisher copyright

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