Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Soil needs decades to recover from a spill

Date:
December 8, 2010
Source:
Plataforma SINC
Summary:
Twelve years after the spillage at Aznalcóllar (Spain), scientists say that the soil affected has recovered "reasonably well". Their study of nematodes (microscopic soil worms that are indicators of the biological state of soil) confirmed the "enormous" impact of heavy metals and is useful for predicting the effect of the red mud spillage in Hungary.

In Spain, the Aznalcóllar spillage in 1998 affected species in the soil in Dońana including killing several species.
Credit: CSIC

Twelve years after the spillage at Aznalcóllar (Spain), a team led by the National Museum of Natural Science (NMNS-Spanish National Research Council) states that the soil affected has recovered "reasonably well." Their study of nematodes (microscopic soil worms that are indicators of the biological state of soil) confirmed the "enormous" impact of heavy metals and is useful for predicting the effect of the red mud spillage in Hungary.

One month ago, a spillage of red mud with toxic material from the aluminium holding pond in the city of Kolontar devastated the west of Budapest (Hungary) and reached the Danube. The immediate consequences were the loss of ten human lives and the destruction of houses and crops. In Spain, the Aznalcóllar spillage in 1998 affected species in the soil in Dońana including killing several species. Some nematodes disappeared in the first few months after the disaster.

"The abundance and diversity of these animals was affected immediately, but in the long term, the nematodes themselves did not suffer any irreparable damage," the main author of the study and researcher at the NMNS (SNRC) in Madrid Alfonso Navas said.

The study, published recently in Nematropica, compared samples from the unpolluted and polluted areas. According to the results, the diversity and maturity of nematodes was "significantly" lower in the polluted area than in the unpolluted area. "Nickel and Copper appear to be the most toxic metals for the nematode community," Navas added.

"The issue is not whether or not the nematodes disappear, because that is impossible, but whether the nematode fauna, which plays a biological role and recycles organic matter, has suffered damage and also whether the soil has felt the effects of the spill," the researcher specified. "It could take tens of years for the soil to recover," the expert added.

"An impact such as a spillage of this type affects soil structure. Even though it can recover in the long term, the immediate function of the micro fauna is altered for decades," Navas insists. The direct impact of such spillages is also coupled with the fact that majority contain heavy metals.

According to the researchers, Aznalcóllar has been "restored in exemplary fashion," a process that began with a determined and rapid response on behalf of the SNRC and the Regional Government of Andalucía."

However, "some of that soil is still affected by heavy metals, although there is no reason to dramatise because they have been immobilised by physical and chemical corrective measures," Navas indicated. According to the researcher, the surroundings of the Dońana National Park were also used for mining, where "there were already a large number of heavy metals."

The Largest Ecological Disaster in Hungary

On the 4th of October, the Hungarian aluminium holding pond in the city of Kolontar ruptured sending toxic red mud into at least 40km2 of the West of Budapest, researchers said. Houses, farms, crops and human lives were lost. The "extraordinary" fertility of the plains of the Danube was also affected. "It is highly likely that this area will not be able to be used to grow crops for a long time," Navas said.

Furthermore, "in Hungary, action was not taken as efficiently or quickly as was to be expected, as in Aznalcóllar, and toxic pollutants have probably reached a much greater depth than was the case in Spain," the expert stated.

The "advantage" of the Spanish spillage is that a mud crust was formed which saw pollutants remain on the surface, therefore making it possible to remove them mechanically. In Hungary "it was not hot enough for such a crust to form and the content of the spillage percolated into the soil," the scientist said.

If heavy metals filter into the soil, "biodiversity is reduced and the productivity of the soil, in both physical and nutritional terms, is noticeably affected. Without the biological natural components of the soil, the latter is not moved or aired and therefore becomes compact over time," Navas indicated.

The Spanish biologist believes Aznalcóllar could serve as a model for how to act in Hungary. The nematodes and earthworms play a "fundamental" role because they accelerate the cycle of nutrients and see to it that the latter interchange. "Without the micro fauna, the roots of plants asphyxiate and do not grow, leading to a reduction in the (agricultural and forest) fertility of the soil," Navas concludes.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Plataforma SINC. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Navas, A.; Flores-Romero, P.; Sánchez-Moreno, S.; Camargo, J.A.; McGawley, E.C. Effects of heavy metal soil pollution on nematode communities after the Aznalcóllar mining spill. Nematropica, 40(1): 13-29, 20 June 2010

Cite This Page:

Plataforma SINC. "Soil needs decades to recover from a spill." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 December 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101105085426.htm>.
Plataforma SINC. (2010, December 8). Soil needs decades to recover from a spill. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101105085426.htm
Plataforma SINC. "Soil needs decades to recover from a spill." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101105085426.htm (accessed October 21, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

'Cadaver Dog' Sniffs out Human Remains

'Cadaver Dog' Sniffs out Human Remains

AP (Oct. 21, 2014) — Where's a body buried? Buster's nose can often tell you. He's a cadaver dog, specially trained to find human remains and increasingly being used by law enforcement and accepted in courts. These dogs are helping solve even decades-old mysteries. (Oct. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) — Two white lion cubs, an extremely rare subspecies of the African lion, were recently born at Belgrade Zoo. They are being bottle fed by zoo keepers after they were rejected by their mother after birth. Duration: 00:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) — He is leading a one man agricultural revolution in Mali - Oumar Diatabe uses traditional farming methods to get the most out of his land and is teaching others across the country how to do the same. Duration: 01:44 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Goliath Spider Will Give You Nightmares

Goliath Spider Will Give You Nightmares

Buzz60 (Oct. 20, 2014) — An entomologist stumbled upon a South American Goliath Birdeater. With a name like that, you know it's a terrifying creepy crawler. Sean Dowling (@SeanDowlingTV) has the details. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins