The aims of this study were to investigate the combined effects of drought stress and copper pollution on enchytraeids under natural conditions in the field and to compare the results of laboratory toxicity tests with results of the field study. Such studies were conducted to increase the understanding of interactions between chemicals and natural stressors and assess the predictive value of standardized laboratory tests with enchytraeids. The combined effect of copper and summer drought on enchytraeids was investigated in an old copper-contaminated field site at Hygum, Denmark, in three areas with different copper burdens. Each area consisted of five plots, which were divided into two subplots: one control and one drought subplot in which precipitation was excluded for a 45-d period during summer. Enchytraeids were sampled in spring (before the enforced drought began) and in autumn (after recovery from drought). Clear effects of copper were evident in both the field and the laboratory experiment. The field population density and species composition was highly affected by copper at concentrations in the range 300 to 500 mg Cu/kg dry soil and higher. In particular, a greatly impoverished species diversity was found in the copper-polluted areas. The effects of copper in the field compared reasonably well with the results of the laboratory tests. Surprisingly, possible effects of summer drought in the field were not detected in the autumn sampling, perhaps because of rapid recovery of the enchytraeid populations in both unpolluted and copper-polluted areas.
Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, 2006, Vol 25, Issue 2, p. 604-612