The toxicity of metals to earthworms and the residues of metals found in earthworms are reviewed. Meta 1 concentrations are rarely high enough to be toxic to worms, but copper may reduce populations in orchards heavily treated with fungicides and in soil contaminated with pig wastes. The metals in some industrial sewage sludges may interfere with using sludge in vermiculture. Storage ratios (the concentration of a metal in worms divided by the concentration in soil) tend to be highest in infertile soil and lowest in media rich in organic matter, such as sewage sludge. Cadmium, gold, and selenium are highly concentrated by worms. Lead concentrations in worms may be very high, but are generally lower than concentrations in soil. Body burdens of both copper and zinc seem to be regulated by worms. Because worms are part of the food webs of many wildlife species, and also because they are potentially valuable feed supplements for domestic animals, the possible toxic effects of cadmium and other metals should be studied. Worms can make metals more available to food webs and can redistribute them in soil.
Additional publication details
Metals and terrestrial earthworms (Annelida: Oligochaeta)
Beech Leaf Press
Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
Larger Work Type:
Larger Work Subtype:
Other Government Series
Larger Work Title:
Workshop on the Role of Earthworms in the Stabilization of Organic Residues, Proceedings, Volume 1.