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Title: Impaired microbial activity caused by metal pollution: a field study in a deactivated uranium mining area
Author: Antunes, Sara Cristina
Pereira, Ruth
Marques, Sérgio Miguel
Castro, Bruno Branco
Gonçalves, Fernando
Keywords: Soil enzymes
Microbial activity
Uranium mine
Soil quality
Issue Date: 2011
Publisher: Elsevier
Abstract: European frameworks for the ecological risk assessment (ERA) of contaminated sites integrate information from three lines of evidence: chemical, ecotoxicological, and ecological. Regarding the last one, field observations at the contaminated sites are compared to reference site(s) and the differences recorded are analysed at the light of a cause-effect relationship, taking into account the site-specific contamination. Thus, included in the tier 2 of a site-specific risk assessment that is being carried out in an deactivated uranium mining area, a battery of soil enzyme activities (dehydrogenases, urease, arysulphatase, cellulase, acid phosphate) and potential nitrification were assessed in seven sampling sites (A–D–E–F–G–H–I) at different distances from the mine pit. These parameters have been considered good indicators of impacts on soil microbial communities and, subsequently, on soil functions. Soil enzyme activities were impaired in the most contaminated site (A, near the mine pit), for which a higher degree of risk was determined in the tier 1 of ERA. Three other sites within the mining area (F, G, and D) were discriminated on the basis of their low microbial activity, using uni- and multivariate approaches, and validating what had been previously found with chemical and ecotoxicological lines of evidence. We observed considerable among-site heterogeneity in terms of soil physical and chemical properties, combined with seasonal differences in enzyme activities. Still, the correlation between microbial parameters and soil general physical and chemical parameters was weak. In opposition, significant and negative correlations were found between soil enzyme activities and several metallic elements (Al, Be, Cu, U). These findings suggest a clear correlation between compromised soil function (nutrient recycling) and metal contamination. Such information reinforces the evidence of risks for some sites within the mining area and is an important contribution for the usefulness of soil enzyme activities for evaluating changes in soil health.
Peer review: yes
DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2011.09.003
ISSN: 0048-9697
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