Assessing nickel bioavailability in smelter-contaminated soils

Jeffrey L. Everhart, David McNear, Edward Peltier, Daniel van der Lelie, Rufus L. Chaney, Donald L. Sparks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations


Metal contaminants in soil environments derived from industrial pollution have clearly established the need for research on bioavailability and potential health risks. Much research has been conducted on metal sorption in soils. However, there is still a need to better understand the availability of metal contaminants to plants and microbes. Such information will enhance both human health and decisions about remediation efforts. In this study, Welland Loam (Typic epiaquoll) and Quarry Muck (Terric haplohemist) Ni contaminated soils from Port Colborne (Canada) which had been treated and untreated with limestone, were employed in greenhouse and bioavailability studies. These soils varied in pH from 5.1 to 7.5, in organic matter content from 6% to 72%, and in total Ni from 63 to 22,000 mg/kg. Oat (Avena sativa), a nonhyperaccumulator, and Alyssum murale, a hyperaccumulating plant species, were grown on these soils in greenhouse studies for 45 and 120 days, respectively, to estimate Ni accumulation. A Ni specific bacterial biosensor was also used to determine Ni bioavailability, and the results were compared to those from the greenhouse studies and more conventional, indirect chemical extraction techniques (employing MgCl2 and a Sr(NO3)2). Results from the greenhouse, chemical extraction, and biosensor studies suggested that as the pH of the soil was increased with liming, Ni bioavailability decreased. However, the phytoextraction capability of A. murale increased as soil pH increased, which was not the case for A. sativa. Furthermore, the Ni specific bacterial biosensor was successful in predicting Ni bioavailability in the soils and suggested that higher Ni bioavailabilities occur in the soils at pH values of 5.1 and 6. The combination of plant growth, chemical extraction, and bacterial biosensor approaches are recommended for assessing bioavailability of toxic metals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)732-744
Number of pages13
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - Aug 31 2006


  • Alyssum murale
  • Avena sativa
  • Bioavailability
  • Hyperaccumulators
  • Nickel uptake
  • Phytoremediation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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