Effects of lime and compost on earthworm (Eisenia fetida) reproduction in copper and arsenic contaminated soils from the Puchuncaví Valley, Chile.
ABSTRACT The Puchuncaví Valley in central Chile has been exposed to atmospheric depositions from a copper smelter. Nowadays, soils in the surrounding area are acidic and contaminated with Cu and As. The objective of this study was to determine the effectiveness of lime and compost for in situ immobilization of trace elements in the soils of the Puchuncaví Valley by using earthworms as bioindicators of toxicity. The lime and compost treatments significantly increased soil pH and decreased the soluble and exchangeable Zn, exchangeable Cu, and free Cu(2+) activity. However, the compost treatment increased soluble Cu, and soluble and exchangeable As. Lime application had no effect on earthworm reproduction in comparison with the unamended control, whereas the application of compost increased cocoon and juvenile production. There was a spatial variability of soil properties within treatments in the field plots. This allowed the identification of which soil properties were actually having an impact on earthworm reproduction. For both cocoon and juvenile production, soil organic matter (SOM) was a positive factor, i.e., more SOM increased cocoon or juvenile production. The toxicity (negative) factor was total soil As. However, total Cu and total As were well correlated (R(2)=0.80, p<0.001), hence some of the trends could have been masked. In summary, compost treatment was effective in improving the quality of soils of Puchuncaví Valley, increasing earthworm reproduction. Future Chilean legislation on maximum permissible concentrations of trace elements in soils should consider SOM content due to its effect on trace element solubility and bioavailability.