Decomposition of heavy metal contaminated nettles (Urtica dioica L.) in soils subjected to heavy metal pollution by river sediments

Khan, K.S.; Joergensen, R.G.

Chemosphere 65(6): 981-987


ISSN/ISBN: 0045-6535
PMID: 16677685
DOI: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2006.03.038
Accession: 012848608

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Two incubation experiments were conducted to evaluate differences in the microbial use of non-contaminated and heavy metal contaminated nettle (Urtica dioica L.) shoot residues in three soils subjected to heavy metal pollution (Zn, Pb, Cu, and Cd) by river sediments. The microbial use of shoot residues was monitored by changes in microbial biomass C, biomass N, biomass P, ergosterol, N mineralisation, CO(2) production and O(2) consumption rates. Microbial biomass C, N, and P were estimated by fumigation extraction. In the non-amended soils, the mean microbial biomass C to soil organic C ratio decreased from 2.3% in the low metal soil to 1.1% in the high metal soils. In the 42-d incubation experiment, the addition of 2% nettle residues resulted in markedly increased contents of microbial biomass P (+240%), biomass C (+270%), biomass N (+310%), and ergosterol (+360%). The relative increase in the four microbial properties was similar for the three soils and did not show any clear heavy metal effect. The contents of microbial biomass C, N and P and ergosterol contents declined approximately by 30% during the incubation as in the non-amended soils. The ratios microbial biomass C to N, microbial biomass C to P, and ergosterol to microbial biomass C remained constant at 5.2, 26, and 0.5%, respectively. In the 6-d incubation experiment, the respiratory quotient CO(2)/O(2) increased from 0.74 in the low metal soil to 1.58 in the high metal soil in the non-amended soils. In the treatments amended with 4% nettle residues, the respiratory quotient was constant at 1.13, without any effects of the three soils or the two nettle treatments. Contaminated nettle residues led generally to significantly lower N mineralisation, CO(2) production and O(2) consumption rates than non-contaminated nettle residues. However, the absolute differences were small.