Role of soil properties in sewage sludge toxicity to soil collembolans

Xavier Domene, Joan Colón, Maria Vittoria Uras, Rebeca Izquierdo, Anna Àvila, Josep M. Alcañiz

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40 Citations (Scopus)


Soil properties are one of the most important factors explaining the different toxicity results found in different soils. Although there is knowledge about the role of soil properties on the toxicity of individual chemicals, not much is known about its relevance for sewage sludge amendments. In particular little is known about the effect of soil properties on the toxicity modulation of these complex wastes. In addition, in most studies on sewage sludges the identity of the main substances linked to the toxicity and the influence of soil properties on their bioavailability remains unknown.In this study, the toxicity of a sewage sludge to the soil collembolan Folsomia candida was assessed in nine natural soils from agricultural, grassland and woodland sites, together with the OECD soil. Correlations between the relative toxicity of sludge for collembolans in the different soils and their physical and chemical soil properties were assessed in order to identify the main compounds responsible for the effects observed. Furthermore, the relationships between the toxic effects to collembolans and water-soluble ions released by sludge, pH and electric conductivity were also assessed, together with the modulating effects of soil properties.Sludge toxicity was directly linked to the water extractable ammonium, which explained most of the mortality of the collembolans, and part of the inhibition of reproduction. For the last endpoint, nitrite also contributed significantly to the inhibition observed. The varied levels in water extractable ammonium in the different soils at equal dosages seem to be, in turn, modulated by some soil properties. Higher organic carbon contents were associated with lower toxicity of sludge, both for survival and reproduction, probably related to its higher ammonium sorption capacity. In addition, for reproduction, increasing the C/N ratio and pH appeared to increase the toxicity, probably due to both the greater difficultly in nitrification and the known unsuitability of alkaline soils for this species. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1982-1990
JournalSoil Biology and Biochemistry
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2010


  • Ammonium
  • Collembolans
  • Organic matter
  • Sewage sludge toxicity
  • Soil properties
  • Soluble ions

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