Biological tools for the assessment of contaminated land: applied soil ecotoxicity

G. I. Paton, K. Killham, H. J. Weitz, K. T. Semple

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Chemical analysis alone is inadequate for comprehensively assessing the impact of soil pollution on biota. The term bioavailability can only be applied in a context specific to a target biological receptor or a proven chemical surrogate. Integration of biological and chemical data can often yield significant advances in hazard assessment and act as a suitable baseline for making site-specific risk assessments. Here, the value of biological techniques is discussed and their application described. The relative merit of test selection is considered and the new direction being developed in sublethal assessments. Currently, however, one of the major limitations is the seeming lack of flexibility of many assays in that they are either applicable to agricultural systems or industrial scenarios, but rarely to both. As a consequence, few assays have internationally adopted protocols. The introduction of new methods and the continued improvement and refinement of assays make this area of soil science dynamic and responsive.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)487-499
Number of pages12
JournalSoil Use & Management
Issue numbers2
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2005


  • contaminated land
  • bioassays
  • soil ecotoxicology
  • bioavailability
  • hazard assessment
  • heavy-metals
  • lumbricus-terrestris
  • PAH bioavailability
  • microbial bioassays
  • organic-chemicals
  • mutagenicity test
  • bacterial assays
  • enzyme-activity
  • trace-metals
  • toxicity


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