We evaluated the partitioning and toxicity of cadmium (Cd) and copper (Cu) spiked into formulated sediments containing two types of organic matter (OM), i.e., cellulose and humus. Amendments of cellulose up to 12.5% total organic carbon (TOC) did not affect partitioning of Cd or Cu between sediment and pore water and did not significantly affect the toxicity of spiked sediments in acute toxicity tests with the amphipod Hyalella azteca. In contrast, amendments of natural humus shifted the partitioning of both Cd and Cu toward greater concentrations in sediment and lesser concentrations in pore water and significantly reduced toxic effects of both metals. Thresholds for toxicity, based on measured metal concentrations in whole sediment, were greater for both Cd and Cu in sediments amended with a low level of humus (2.9% TOC) than in sediments without added OM. Amendments with a high level of humus (8.9% TOC) eliminated toxicity at the highest spike concentrations of both metals (sediment concentrations of 12.4 ??g Cd/g and 493 ??g Cu/g). Concentrations of Cd in pore water associated with acute toxicity were similar between sediments with and without humus amendments, suggesting that toxicity of Cd was reduced primarily by sorption to sediment OM. However, toxic effects of Cu in humus treatments were associated with greater pore-water concentrations than in controls, suggesting that toxicity of Cu was reduced both by sorption and by complexation with soluble ligands. Both sorption and complexation by OM tend to make proposed sediment quality guidelines (SQGs) based on total metal concentrations more protective for high-OM sediments. Our results suggest that the predictive ability of SQGs could be improved by models of metal interactions with natural OM in sediment and pore water.
Additional publication details
Effects of organic amendments on the toxicity and bioavailability of cadmium and copper in spiked formulated sediments