Recent research has documented soil microorganisms to be rather sensitive to linear alkylbenzene sulfonates (LAS), which may enter the soil environment in considerable quantities following sewage sludge disposal. We here report field effects of LAS on selected microbial populations present in a sandy soil surrounding well-defined sludge bands spiked with high but realistic LAS levels (7.1 or 31.3 g/kg). Surprisingly, LAS had no effect on heterotrophic respiration in the sludge compartment per se but stimulated activity and metabolic quotient (microbial activity per unit of biomass) in the surrounding soil. By contrast, autotrophic ammonia oxidation was initially inhibited in the LAS-spiked sludge. This led to dramatic transient increases of NH+4 availability in the sludge and surrounding soil, subsequently stimulating soil ammonia oxidizers. As judged from a Nitrosomonas europaea bioluminescence toxicity assay, however, LAS or other sludge components never accumulated to toxic levels in the soil compartments and the LAS tolerance of the indigenous microbes further remained unchanged following LAS exposure. LAS effects on the investigated microbial populations largely occurred during the first two months and were confined to soil closer than 30 mm from LAS-spiked sludge. Our results strongly suggest that disposal of LAS-contaminated sludge does not pose a major risk to the function of the soil microbial community under field conditions.
Cler Review, 2003, Vol 8, Issue 1, p. 72-85
sludge-amended soil; linear alkylbenzene suffonate; ammonia-oxidizing bacteria; soil respiration; field experiment