Remediation of selenium-contaminated soil through combined use of earthworm Eisenia fetida and organic materials

Xinyu Gan, Jung Chen Huang, Manping Zhang, Chuanqi Zhou, Shengbing He, Weili Zhou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Selenium (Se)-polluted soils pose serious threats to terrestrial ecosystems through food chains. This study evaluated the use of earthworm Eisenia fetida and organic materials for Se remediation. The greater mortality (6.7%) and weight loss (28.6%) were observed for earthworms exposed to selenate than selenite at 20 mg Se Kg−1 over 21 d, while selenate was taken up 2.5-fold faster than selenite. Compared with peat moss, Se accumulation increased by 119% in selenite-exposed earthworms supplied with cow manure. Earthworm activity caused greater reduction in selenite (17.4%), with little impact on selenate-treated soil. X-ray absorption spectroscopy speciation analysis shows 87–91% of tissue Se was transformed to organo-Se, i.e., SeMet and SeCys, in earthworms exposed to either selenite or selenate, posing great risks to their predators. The study also found selenium increased bacterial diversity in earthworm casts, while greater relative abundances (~37.57%) of functional genera were obtained for selenite. Over 24 h, two bacteria strains, Bacillus cereus and Aeromonas encheleia, isolated from casts, rapidly reduced selenite by ~94%, compared to ~25% for selenate. Elemental Se was present only in strains (~27%), casts (~11%) and worm-inhabited soil (~2.7%) of selenite treatments, suggesting earthworm gut microbiota could buffer earthworms and other soil fauna from selenite toxicity.

Original languageEnglish
Article number124212
JournalJournal of Hazardous Materials
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Mar 5

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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