Responses of earthworms to metal exposure


The aim of this research is to find out how long-term metal exposure affects biological, ecological and physiological characteristics of earthworms, and further, how these responses affect decomposition activity and soil fertility. Populations under study are taken from areas contaminated with metals from human activity (e.g., metal smelters). In these cases, earthworms have been exposed simultaneously to several metals. After field surveys, populations from species with different biology, ecology, and exposure history have been subjected to laboratory experiments. Observations at individual and population levels in particular are linked to ecosystem-level phenomena. We also aim at estimating the usefulness of earthworms in assessing environmental quality of soils and risks caused by metals by combining field surveys, laboratory exposure tests, and biomarker measurements. Biomarkers measured are, for example, metallothioneins, cytochrome P4501A mono-oxygenase enzyme induction, and glutathione-S-transferase activity. I collaborate with Dr. Tuomas Lukkari (earthworm studies) and Dr. Ari Väisänen, Department of Chemistry, University of Jyväskylä (chemical analyses).


  • Lukkari, T. & Haimi, J. 2005. Avoidance of Cu and Zn contaminated soil by three ecologically different earthworm species. Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety 62: 35-41.
  • Lukkari, T., Aatsinki, M., Väisänen, A. & Haimi, J. 2005. Toxicity of Copper and Zinc assessed with three different earthworm tests. Applied Soil Ecology 30: 133-146.
  • Lukkari, T., Teno, S., Väisänen, A. & Haimi, J. 2006. Effects of earthworms on decomposition and metal availability in contaminated soil: Microcosm studies of populations with different exposure histories. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 38: 359-370.