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Effects of contaminated soils from a former iron mine (Ait Amar, Morocco) on enchytraeids (Enchytraeus bigeminus) and predatory mites (Hypoaspis aculeifer) in standard laboratory tests

Madani, Safoura, Coors, Anja, Haddioui, Abdelmajid, Ksibi, Mohamed, Pereira, Ruth, Paulo Sousa, José, Römbke, Jörg
Ecotoxicology and environmental safety 2015 v.119 pp. 90-97
Enchytraeus, Hypoaspis aculeifer, cadmium, chromium, copper, ecosystems, exposure pathways, guidelines, juveniles, laboratory experimentation, mined soils, mining, polluted soils, predatory mites, reproduction, risk, risk assessment, soil biota, soil pH, soil remediation, toxicity, Morocco
Mining activity is an important economic activity in several North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and North African countries. Within their territory derelict or active mining explorations represent risks to surrounding ecosystems, but engineered-based remediation processes are usually too expensive to be an option for the reclamation of these areas. A project funded by NATO was performed, with the aim of finding a more eco-friendly solution for reclamation of these areas. As part of an overall risk assessment, the risk of contaminated soils to selected soil organisms was evaluated. The main question addressed was: Does the metal-contaminated soils from a former iron mine located at Ait Amar (Morocco),which was abandoned in the mid-Sixties, affect the reproduction of enchytraeids (Enchytraeus bigeminus) and predatory mites (Hypoaspis aculeifer)? Soil samples were taken at 20 plots along four transects covering the mine area and at a reference site about 15km away from the mine. The soils were characterized pedologically and chemically, which showed a heterogeneous pattern of metal contamination (mainly cadmium, copper, and chromium, sometimes at concentrations higher than European soil trigger values). The reproduction of enchytraeids (Enchytraeus bigeminus) and predatory mites (Hypoaspis aculeifer) was studied using standard laboratory tests according to OECD guidelines 220 (2004) and 226 (2008). The number of juveniles of E. bigeminus was reduced at several plots with high concentrations of Cd or Cu (the latter in combination with low pH values). There was nearly no effect of the metal contaminated soils on the reproduction of H. aculeifer. The overall lack of toxicity at the majority of the studied plots is probably caused by the low availability of the metals in these soils unless soil pH was very low. Different exposure pathways are likely responsible for the different reaction of mites and enchytraeids (hard-bodied versus soft-bodied organisms). The results of this study can be used not only for assessing the risk of contaminated soils but also could play a role for the identification of soil remediation programs.