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Potential use of the plant antioxidant network for environmental exposure assessment of heavy metals in soils
Meers, E.; Ruttens, A.; Geebelen, W.; Vangronsveld, J.; Samson, R.; Vanbroekhoven, K.; Vandegehuchte, M.; Diels, L.; Tack, F.M.G. (2006). Potential use of the plant antioxidant network for environmental exposure assessment of heavy metals in soils. Environ. Monit. Assess. 120(1-3): 243-267.
In: Environmental Monitoring and Assessment. Kluwer: Dordrecht. ISSN 0167-6369; e-ISSN 1573-2959, more
Peer reviewed article  

Available in  Authors 

Author keywords
    heavy metals, oxidative stresss, bioavailability, ecological risk assessment

Authors  Top 
  • Meers, E., more
  • Ruttens, A.
  • Geebelen, W.
  • Vangronsveld, J.
  • Samson, R., more
  • Vanbroekhoven, K.
  • Vandegehuchte, M., more
  • Diels, L., more
  • Tack, F.M.G., more

    In recent years, awareness has risen that the total soil content of pollutants by itself does not suffice to fully assess the potential ecotoxicological risks involved. Chemical analysis will require to be complemented with biological assays in a multidisciplinary approach towards site specific ecological risk assessment (SS-ERA). This paper evaluates the potential use of the plants' antioxidant response to metal-induced oxidative stress to provide a sensitive biological assay in SS-ERA. To this end, plants of Phaseolus vulgaris were grown for two weeks on 15 soils varying in contamination level. Morphological parameters and enzymatic plant responses were measured upon harvest. Foliar concentrations of the (heavy) metals Al, Cu, Cd, Cr, Fe, Mn, Ni, Pb, Zn were also determined. Metal mobility in the soil was further assessed by determining soil solution and NH4OAc extractable levels. In general more significant correlations were observed between plant responses and foliar metal concentrations or exchangeable/soluble levels than between plant responses and the total soil content. The study demonstrates the potential use of the plants' antioxidant defence mechanisms to assess substrate phytotoxicity for application in SS-ERA protocols. However, the system, based on calculation of a soil Phytotoxicity Index (PI), will require adaptation and fine-tuning to meet the specific needs for this type of environmental monitoring. Large variation was observed in phytotoxicity classification based on the various test parameters. The thresholds for classification of the various morphological and enzymatic response parameters may require adaptation according to parameter stress sensitivity in order to decrease the observed variation. The use of partial PI's (leaves and roots separately) may in addition increase the sensitivity of the system since some metals show specific effects in one of both organs only. Loss of biological functionality of enzymes, as was observed for ICDH in one of the more strongly contaminated soils, may also be recognized as an additional stress symptom when assigning phytotoxicity classification, whereas the current system only considers increasing enzymatic capacities. Other easily distinguishable parameters, which could be added to the current indexation are: failure to germinate and the incapacity to develop roots in the toxic substrate.Additional research will be required to determine the possible application range of soil properties for this biological assay and to further improve its performance in SS-ERA.

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