Biomarker response and biomass change of earthworms exposed to chlorpyrifos in microcosms
Background levels of chlorpyrifos and earthworm abundance were determined in an orchard and adjacent areas on a farm in the Western Cape, South Africa before these areas were again sprayed with this organophosphate. The background concentrations ranged from 0.2 μg/kg dm in the spray drift area adjacent to the orchard to 10.18 μg/kg dm on the slope in the run off area. In the target area the chlorpyrifos concentrations varied from a mean of 15.25±10.0 μg/kg directly after spraying to a mean of 7.0±0.9 μg/kg 6 months later and in the nontarget area they varied from a mean of 55.0±35 μg/kg to 12.0±5 μg/kg after 6 months. Chlorpyrifos was therefore still present in the field soils, but at lower concentrations, up to 6 months after the last spraying event. Earthworm abundance and population densities were very low. Only Aporrectodea caliginosa was found and the densities were much lower in the orchards (22 per m2) than in the nontarget areas (98.3 per m2). Microcosm studies were undertaken to relate biomarker responses to chlorpyrifos with biomass changes. Microcosms were filled with soil from the same areas and earthworms of the species A. caliginosa were introduced. The microcosms were treated with a series of concentrations of chlorpyrifos in the laboratory under controlled conditions. These concentrations were chosen to fall within the background ranges found in the soils. The biomass of the worms was determined regularly for a period of 5 weeks and worms in a state of estivation were noted. Earthworms were removed from the microcosms for biomarker tests: for cholinesterase (ChE) inhibition assays every week and for a neutral red retention determination 2 weeks after the exposures started. The most prominent biomass loss was noted in earthworms exposed to the highest pesticide concentration of 8.0 μg/kg. Estivation was higher among earthworms exposed to higher exposure concentrations. Inhibition of ChE increased with higher exposure concentrations and with time but there was no clear dose-related response. A clear dose-related response with exposure concentration was established for the neutral red retention assay. A correlation between ChE inhibition and biomass change existed directly after the second application of chlorpyrifos. © 2005 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.