Received December 22, 1998,Revised February 17, 1998, Accepted , Available online

Volume 11,1999,Pages 40-47

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This paper reviewed the effects of heavy metals on microbial biomass in metal polluted soils. Laboratory and field investigations where metals were applied as inorganic or organic salts demonstrated a significant decline in the size of soil microbial biomass. In most of the cases, negative effects were evident at metal concentrations below the European Communitys (EC) current permissible metal levels in the soil. Application of metal enriched sludges and composts caused significant inhibition of microbial biomass at surprisingly modest concentrations of metals in the soil that were indeed smaller than those likely to decrease the growth of sensitive crop species. On the whole, relative toxicity of metals decreased in the order of Cd>Cu>Zn>Pb, but a few exceptions to this trend also existed. A significant decline in the biomass carbon to organic carbon ratio(Cmin/Corg) in metal polluted soils indicated that this parameter can serve as a good indicator of the toxicity of metals on soil microflora. The knowledge regarding the response of soil biota to metal interactions and the factors affecting metal toxicity to soil microorganisms is still very limited and warrants further study.

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