The impact of human activities on biogeochemical cycles in terrestrial environments is nowhere more apparent than in urban landscapes. Trace metals, collected on roadways and transported by storm water, may contaminate soils and sediments associated with storm water management systems. These systems will accumulate metals and associated sediments may reach toxic levels for terrestrial and aquatic organisms using the retention basins as habitat. The fate and bioavailability of these metals once deposited is poorly understood. Here we present results from a dose-response experiment that examines the application of synchrotron X-ray fluorescence methods (μ-SXRF) to test the hypothesis that earthworms will bio-accumulate Zn in a roadway-dust contaminated soil system providing a potential pathway for roadway contaminants into the terrestrial food web, and that the storage and distribution of Zn will change with the level of exposure reflecting the micronutrient status of Zn.

Lumbricus friendi was exposed to Zn-bearing roadway dust amended to a field soil at six target concentrations ranging from background levels (45 mg/kg Zn) to highly contaminated levels (460 mg/kg Zn) designed to replicate the observed concentration range in storm-water retention basin soils. After a 30 day exposure, Zn storage in the intestine is positively correlated with dose and there is a change in the pattern of Zn storage within the intestine. This relationship is only clear when μ-SXRF Zn map data is coupled with a traditional toxicological approach, and suggests that the gut concentration in L. friendi is a better indicator of Zn bioaccumulation and storage than the total body burden.

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