SETAC Globe - Environmental Quality Through Science
  19 July 2012
Volume 13 Issue 7

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Berlin Highlights—Soil Ecotoxicology

Jakub Hofman, Masaryk University

The session "Soil Ecotoxicology" was the biggest session on the topic in SETAC meeting history. In fact, it was exactly covering this theme "From Studies Focused on Testing Chemicals or Samples with Bioassays, through Microcosms to Field Studies, Biodiversity Assessment and Risk Assessment of Contaminants in Soil. On 21 May, there were 18 excellent platform presentations covering a variety of aspects and point of views on soil ecotoxicology. We started with two overview presentations covering general concepts of assessment, management and decision-making for soils at risk, the status of soil ecotoxicological testing methods, soil protection and related policies. Three contributions were presenting research performed using soil micro-organisms, soil invertebrates and mesocosm test systems such as the Terrestrial Model Ecosystem (TME) semi-field method. The next few presentations focused on new test methods for the assessment and valuation of biodiversity of soil communities. Ambitious monitoring projects, covering both micro-organisms as well as invertebrates, notably from France, the UK and Germany, were introduced to the audience. Two presentations informed the audience on the status of new microbial and single-species test methods that use species relevant to the boreal forest and northern eco-zones of Canada. The last part of the session focused on the application of soil ecotoxicity tests. The session also had a poster corner with 8 posters containing author comments. Taking into account platform presentations and more than 60 posters, it is likely there were no issues regarding current soil ecotoxicology that was not at least partially addressed in the session.

It is difficult to reduce the information from such a wide variety of soil ecotoxicology science presentations into a few sentences. Many presentations in the session showed that contamination situations are very complicated to assess and remediate. As well, components of test methods and standards which we trusted must now be revisited (e.g., artificial soil recipe standardization due to high variability between different laboratories conducting tests with the standard recipe, criteria for test species selection, sampling of reference soils). There is a significant level of research and method validation needed to address some of the issues and challenges covered by session speakers. A few of the issues from the session are:

  • More public attention is needed on threats to the soil ecosystem; we should think how to raise awareness, especially from the viewpoint of increasing demand of the world population for food and thus, also for fertile soils
  • Integrated tools (including higher tier semi-field approaches) are needed, especially when we are still not sure “how far we can jump from simple toxicity tests to the field”
  • As a number of presenters mentioned, the TME semi-field method has a reasonable level of standardization and system complexity for prospective type testing (pesticides and priority chemicals)
  • It is clear that new soil toxicology methodologies are emerging as effects measurement tools for testing complex contaminated soil samples
  • “Traditional” soil ecotoxicology, i.e. testing the effects of individual chemicals on individual populations under standardized conditions, is necessary but not sufficient when assessing the risk of chemicals or other threats to soil organisms
  • Ecological knowledge on the structural and functional diversity of soil organism communities and the services they provide and to understand the underlying mechanisms of response are needed for a comprehensive long-term protection of the soil

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