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A multi-site approach to investigate the role of toxicity and confounding factors on plant bioassay results

Delerue, Florian, Masfaraud, Jean-François, Lascourrèges, Jean-François, Atteia, Olivier
Chemosphere 2019 v.219 pp. 482-492
bioassays, biomass, dose response, models, organic matter, plant development, polluted soils, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, soil pH, soil pollution, soil sampling, toxicity
Development of organisms that live on contaminated soils depends on toxicity as well as several physical and chemical soil properties. We aimed to identify plant bioassays most responsive to contaminants and not to confounding factors due to soil type differences. We implemented a multi-site approach in seven contaminated sites and used different ordinary plant bioassays (fourteen-day-shoot biomass and five-day-root and shoot elongation). Most of the sites were contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and soils were sampled from areas of both high and low contamination. Bioassays were performed on ninety soil samples and were carried out with six model species. We performed analyses of regulatory PAHs and their derivatives content in the samples. Fourteen-day-shoot biomass responses depended on the site's origin, with an intricate response of plants that faced contrasted soil pH and organic matter content and various contaminant levels. Five-day-shoot and root lengths were informative when considering the most heavily PAH-contaminated site, since both measures exhibited a close dose-dependent response to PAHs but not to soil pH or organic matter content. For the other sites, elongation tests revealed tenuous effects somehow related to the presence of PAHs or their derivatives. We propose that tests based on plant development during their autotrophic phase (the fourteen-day-shoot biomass test in this study) are likely more sensitive to environmental stressors but less specific for contaminant-induced effects. Comparatively, tests based on early and heterotrophic plant development could be particularly more specific for soil contaminants, but the associated responses may be of low sensitivity.