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Ranking field site management priorities according to their metal transfer to snails

Benjamin Pauget (a), Frédéric Gimbert (a), Michaël Coeurdassier (a), Nadia Crini (a), Guénola Pérès (b), Olivier Faure (c), Francis Douay (d), Adnane Hitmi (e), Thierry Beguiristain (f), Aude Alaphilippe (g), Murielle Guernion (b), Sabine Houot (h), Marc Legras (i), Jean-François Vian (j), Mickaël Hedde (k), Antonio Bispo (l), Cécile Grand (l), Annette de Vaufleury (a)

Pauget & al., 2013
Pauget & al., Ecological Indicators Volume 29, (2013), Pages 445-454

Current soil quality evaluation does not include an assessment of metal bioavailability to organisms. However, sentinel soil-dwelling invertebrates, like snails, can be used for such an assessment. This study aims to establish the modulating soil parameter of metal bioavailability to snails and a procedure for ranking field sites based on the evaluation of the transfer of metals to the land snails used as indicators of metal zooavailability.

Main results

Current risk assessment procedures assume that the total amount of metal contaminants in soil is available for uptake by organisms, including humans. However, it is recognized that soil characteristics such as pH or organic matter content (OM) influence the environmental and toxicological bioavailability of metals[1] to organisms such as earthworms [2] or snails [3] (figure 1).  

Fig.1 Pauget 2013 EN

Figure 1 : Snails’ exposure in the terrestrial ecosystem (from Scheifler, 2002).

To prevent misinterpretation, soil risk assessment must consider metal transfer, based on the total concentration, as modulated by soil characteristics and for selected ecological receptors [4]. Toward this aim, using biological data, such as the internal concentration of contaminants in soil invertebrates, is suitable because it considers both physicochemical and biological processes that modulate metal transfer from the soil to fauna. Living at the interface between soil, plants and air, snails provide information on both the retention and habitat functions of soil [5]. To improve soil quality assessment and risk management of contaminated sites by using relevant soil quality bioindicators, a French program has been run for 3 years on 12 field sites [6]. Multivariate regressions identify soil pH, organic carbon and iron oxides influence cadmium (Cd), lead (Pb), chromium (Cr) and copper (Cu) zooavailability to snails underlining the need to consider other parameter than total soil concentration during bioavailability assessment. However, for arsenic (As), no influence of soil parameter on it bioavailability to snails was identified. Internal Concentrations of Reference (CIRef) of Cd, Pb, As, Cr, Cu and Zn were determined in the landsnail Cantareus aspersus that were caged on unpolluted plots (figure 2).

Fig.2 Pauget 2013

Figure 2 : Median Cd concentration in snails after 28 days at the sites. The dot-dashed line represents the Cd CIRef. A lightning bolt identifies a Cd-polluted soil (i.e., containing more than 0.45 mg Cd kg−1).

CIRef allow for the identification of contaminated sites. CIRef have revealed unexpected metal transfer on some “unpolluted” sites and a lack of transfer on some contaminated sites, thus confirming the necessity for biological measures to evaluate metal mobility. The Sum of Excess of Transfers (SET) index ranked the industrially impacted sites as the top priorities for management. We recommend that the SET methodology be used for future environmental risk assessment. By highlighting real metal transfers and considering the numerous parameters influencing environmental bioavailability, the snails watch provides information on environmental quality.


1. Van Gestel, C.A.M., 2008. Physico-chemical and biological parameters determine metal bioavailability in soils. Sci. Total Environ. 406, 385–395.

2. Nahmani, J., Hodson, M.E., Black, S., 2007. A review of studies performed to assess metal uptake by earthworms. Environ. Pollut. 145, 402–424.

3. Pauget, B., Gimbert, F., Coeurdassier, M., Scheifler, R., de Vaufleury, A., 2011. Use of chemical methods to assess Cd and Pb bioavailability to the snail Cantareus aspersus: a first attempt taking into account soil characteristics. J. Hazard. Mater. 192, 1804–1811.

4. Luoma, S.N., Rainbow, P.S., 2005. Why is metal bioaccumulation so variable? Biodynamics as a unifying concept. Environ. Sci. Technol., 1921–1931.

5. ISO 17402, 2008. Soil Quality – Requirements and Guidance for the Selection and Application of Methods for the Assessment of Bioavailabilty of Contaminants in Soil and Soil Materials. International Organization for Standardization, Geneva, Switzerland.

6. Bispo, A., Grand, C., Galsomies, L., 2009. Le programme ADEME “Bioindicateurs de qualité des sols”: Vers le développement et la validation d’indicateurs biologiques pour la protection des sols. EGS 16, 145–158.


a Department of Chrono-Environment, University of Franche-Comté, UMR UFC/CNRS 6249 USC INRA, Place Leclerc, F-25030 Besanc¸ on Cedex, France
b University of Rennes 1, UMR Ecobio, CNRS, Av du Général Leclerc, F-35042 Rennes, France
c University of Lyon, UMR CNRS 5600 EVS-EMSE-Géosciences et Environnement F 42, Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Mines de Saint-Etienne,
158 cours Fauriel, F-42023 St-Etienne Cedex 2, France
d Groupe ISA, Equipe Sols et Environnement, Laboratoire Génie Civil et géoEnvironnement Lille Nord de France EA 4515, 48 boulevard Vauban, 59046 Lille Cedex, France
e University of Auvergne, UMR547 PIAF, BP 10448, F-63000 Clermont-Ferrand, France
f LIMOS, UMR 7137 CNRS Nancy Université, Faculté des Sciences, Boulevard des Aiguillettes, BP 70239,54506 Vandoeuvre-lès-Nancy Cedex, France
g INRA Avignon, UERI0695 Gotheron domaine de Gotheron, 26320 St Marcel Les Valence, France
h INRA, UMR, 1402 Ecosys Ecologie fonctionnelle et Ecotoxicologie des agroécosystèmes, Thiverval-Grignon, France
i Esitpa – Ecole d’Ingénieurs en Agriculture, Agri’Terr Unit, CS 40118, F-76134 Mont-Saint-Aignan, France
j Département AGEP (AGroécosystèmes-Environnement-Productions), isaralyon, AGRAPOLE – 23 rue Jean Baldassini, F-69364 Lyon Cedex 07, France
k INRA, UR 251 PESSAC, F78026 Versailles Cedex, France
l ADEME (French Environment and Energy Management Agency), 20 avenue du Grésillé, BP 90 406, 49 004 Angers Cedex 01, France

See also

Pauget et al, 2015 :

Mariet et al, 2016 :