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Acclimation of earthworms to chemicals in anthropogenic landscapes, physiological mechanisms and soil ecological implications

Abstract : Because earthworms sustain soil functioning and fertility, there is a need to advance the knowledge of their adaptation potential to chemicals in anthropogenic landscapes. Our hypothesis is that there is acclimation to organic chemicals (pesticides) in earthworms that durably persist under conventional farming in anthropogenic landscapes. The adaptation capability of two populations of earthworms (Aporectodea caliginosa) having a different chemical exposure history, - one originating from 20 years of organic farming (naïve population) and another from 20 years of conventional farming (pre-exposed population) - to cope with soil organic pollutant (Opus®, epoxiconazole a worldwide used fungicide) were investigated. Several complementary metabolic and energetic endpoints were followed, and cast production was assessed as a behavioural biomarker related to earthworms ecological role for the soil. Basal metabolism reflected by respiration rate was increased in both fungicide-exposed worms compared to controls. Glycogen resources were decreased in the same proportion in the two populations but more rapidly for the naïve (7 days) than for the pre-exposed population (28 days). Soluble protein and most amino-acids contents increased in the pre-exposed population only, suggesting a detoxification mechanism. Metabolomic profiles showed a cut-off between fungicide-exposed and control groups in the pre-exposed earthworms only, with an increase in most of the metabolites. Exposure to a low dose of epoxiconazole increased cast production of pre-exposed earthworms, and this resulted in an increase in pesticide disappearance. As far as we know, this is the first study which evidenced there is an acclimation to an agricultural chemical in earthworms derived from conventional farming that also relates to a change in their burrowing behaviour, and for which larger consequences for the soil ecosystem need to be addressed. This original finding is of major interest in the frame of ecosystem resilience to global changes. Whether this physiological adaptation is a general pattern of response against fungicides or other pesticides would need to be confirmed with other molecules and agricultural contexts.
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Submitted on : Friday, June 13, 2014 - 1:39:39 PM
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Nicolas Givaudan, Claudia Wiegand, Barbara Le Bot, David Renault, Frédérique Pallois, et al.. Acclimation of earthworms to chemicals in anthropogenic landscapes, physiological mechanisms and soil ecological implications. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 2014, 79, pp.49-58. ⟨10.1016/j.soilbio.2014.01.032⟩. ⟨hal-01005821⟩



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