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Applied and Environmental Soil Science
Volume 2011, Article ID 521329, 12 pages
Research Article

Micromorphological and Chemical Approaches to Understand Changes in Ecological Functions of Metal-Impacted Soils under Various Land Uses

1Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics, University of Amsterdam, Nieuwe Achtergracht 166, 1018 WV, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
2Sustainable Use, Management and Reclamation of Soil and Water Research Group, Technical University of Cartagena, Paseo Alfonso XIII, 52, 30203 Cartagena, Murcia, Spain
3Canada Research Chair in Soil and Environmental Sciences, University of Northern British Columbia, Prince George, BC, Canada V2N 4Z9

Received 28 October 2010; Revised 1 March 2011; Accepted 28 March 2011

Academic Editor: Alessandro Piccolo

Copyright © 2011 J. A. Acosta et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


We investigated the changes in faunal activities as measures of the ecological functions of soils impacted by potentially toxic metals (PTMs) under urban, industrial, agricultural, and natural uses. Concentrations and distributions of Zn, Cd, Pb, Cu, Mn, and Fe were estimated by sequential chemical extractions, while relicts and present faunal activities were studied by micromorphological analyses. Urban and natural lands were contaminated with Pb, Cd, and Zn. Microarthropods and fungi are observed to be active in the litter decomposition in natural, agricultural and urban lands which indicates that total concentration of PTMs in soils is not a good indicator to evaluate the limitations of PTMs to fauna activity. Metals immobilization on carbonates and Fe/Mn oxides, and fertilizations reduced the negative effects of metals on faunal activity. Micromorphological analyses showed the impacts of metal on soil ecological functions in industrial site, where the surface soils are devoid of any evidence of faunal activity; likely due to high proportion of Pb and Zn in organic components. Therefore, the impacts of metals in soil fauna activities, hence ecological functions of soils, are best evaluated by the knowledge of metal partitioning on solid phases in combination with observations of fauna activities using micromorphological techniques.