On the bioavailability of trace metals in surface sediments: a combined geochemical and biological approach
The bioavailability of metals was estimated in three river sediments (Sens,e, Scarpe, and DeA >> le Rivers) impacted by different levels of Cu, Cd, Pb, and Zn (Northern France). For that, a combination of geochemistry and biological responses (bacteria and chironomids) was used. The results obtained illustrate the complexity of the notion of "bioavailability." Indeed, geochemical indexes suggested a low toxicity, even in surface sediments with high concentrations of total metals and a predicted severe effect levels for the organisms. This was also suggested by the abundance of total bacteria as determined by DAPI counts, with high bacterial cell numbers even in contaminated areas. However, a fraction of metals may be bioavailable as it was shown for chironomid larvae which were able to accumulate an important quantity of metals in surface sediments within just a few days. We concluded that (1) the best approach to estimate bioavailability in the selected sediments is a combination of geochemical and biological approaches and that (2) the sediments in the DeA >> le and Scarpe Rivers are highly contaminated and may impact bacterial populations but also benthic invertebrates.