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A novel method for real-time monitoring of soil ecological toxicity ? Detection of earthworm motion using a vibration sensor

Lee, W.-C.Lee, S.-W.Jeon, J.-H.Jung, H.Kim, S.-O.
Issue Date
Academic Press
Earthworm behavior; Feasibility test; Real-time monitoring; Soil ecological toxicity; Vibration sensor; Zinc
Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety, v.185
Journal Title
Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety
The aim of this study was to develop a new method, using a vibration sensor, to address the drawbacks of preexisting methods for monitoring soil ecological toxicity. A novel method was designed by inspiration from seismometers, which record signals originating from the ground motion caused by earthquake events. Similarly, the newly developed method using a vibration sensor detects the signals generated by earthworm activity, which reflects the soil ecological toxicity. To establish the new method, a stepwise approach was adopted: (1) the effects of operational conditions on the overall performance of the system were evaluated, and (2) the feasibility of the method was tested by an application study. A number of crucial factors influencing the overall performance of the method were evaluated. These were categorized based on three features: soil, tested organism, and instrumentation. The soil properties evaluated included soil type (artificial and natural), moisture content, and bulk density. In terms of the organism, the effect of the number of earthworms was investigated. Finally, with regard to instrumentation, appropriate soil chamber specifications and monitoring duration were identified. The most effective conditions for each factor were determined based on a comparative evaluation of changes in the activity levels and body weights of the earthworms. After the first step of the study, an application study was carried out to demonstrate the feasibility of the proposed method. Zinc (Zn)-contaminated soils were tested under the most efficient operational conditions identified in the preceding study. The results of the study confirm that the method is applicable to natural soils, and the best performance was achieved under soil conditions of 50?60% maximum water holding capacity and 0.95 g/cm3 bulk density. Furthermore, the optimal number of earthworms was found to be five, which corresponds 19.84 g soil per earthworm. With respect to the instrumental conditions, the most efficient specification was a cylindrical soil chamber with a diameter of 94 mm and height of 54 mm. Additionally, the most relevant monitoring duration was found to be 7 days. The results indicate that the method can shorten the testing period, reduce the soil amount and earthworm number required, and facilitate the real-time monitoring of mortality. Based on the results of the application study, we validated the proposed vibration sensor-based method for characterizing earthworm behavior in terms of its feasibility for monitoring the ecological toxicity of soil. The results indicate that dermal contact and feeding activity of earthworms decreased significantly with increasing Zn concentrations in the soil. The EC50 value of Zn calculated based on the earthworm behavior was 340.97 mg/kg. Based on the results, it is concluded that the proposed method cannot only overcome the shortcomings of traditional test methods using earthworms, but also enable real-time ecotoxicity in soil environments. ? 2019 Elsevier Inc.
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