Making sense of soil ecotoxicology

Edited by:
David J. Hoffman, Barnett A. Rattner, G. Allen Burton Jr., and John= Cairns Jr.


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Conclusion: Van de Westeringh likened the accumulation of litter in pesticide-treated orchards to the development of a mor. At Palmerton, although Strojan recorded reductions of all litter arthropod taxa he sampled, the reductions were especially severe for oribatid mites, millipedes, and centipedes, and were relatively minor for other mites and Collembola. We may view the accumulation of 02 litter at contaminated sites not simply as a reduction in the rate of decomposition, but as a shift toward a mor. The sites studied by Tyler et al. were already naturally mors; thus, the metal contamination did not change the kind of litter development, but thickened the 02 horizon. We suggest that a general way of describing the changes reported at various contaminated sites is a shift from the macrotrophic system to the microtrophic or mesotrophic systems. We suggest this should be considered more than a change in the soil ecosystem, but damage to it, because the soil is likely to be less productive. The organic matter may still decompose, but the beneficial effects of the larger soil organisms are absent. We suggest that the accumulation of organic matter in contaminated orchards and turf grass may be more a result of reduced incorporation of organic matter into mineral soil rather than of a reduced rate of decomposition. The microtrophic and mesotrophic systems may carry out the decomposition process when macrotrophic organisms are eliminated, and the rate of decomposition per area may return to normal, but soil quality may deteriorate nonetheless. This loss of soil quality is a logical basis for protecting populations of earthworms and other large soil organisms. We suggest that a measure of the importance of the macrotrophic organisms relative to all decomposers could be used to estimate damage to a soil ecosystem from environmental contaminants

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Book chapter
Publication Subtype:
Book Chapter
Making sense of soil ecotoxicology
Year Published:
Lewis Publishers
Publisher location:
Boca Raton, Florida
Contributing office(s):
Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
x, 755
Larger Work Type:
Larger Work Subtype:
Other Government Series
Larger Work Title:
Handbook of Ecotoxicology
First page:
Last page: