Integration of behavioral tests and biochemical biomarkers of terrestrial isopod Porcellio scaber (Isopoda, Crustacea) is a promising methodology for testing environmental safety of chars
We investigated how different carbonized materials, or chars (olive mill pomace biochar (BC) and urban greens pruning residues hydrochar (HC)) affect an important member of soil fauna, the terrestrial isopod Porcellio scaber. The selection behavior of isopods towards chars after a 48 h exposure was studied in (i) soil-char amended tests with single and multiple choices, and (ii) tests with chars offered as pure material. Finally, we exposed the isopods to char-amended soils for a period of 14 days to follow the effect on food consumption, body mass and activities of enzymes that are commonly altered upon stressor exposure (acetylcholinesterase, AChE, and glutathione S-transferase, GST). We showed that isopods are able to select between char amended and un-amended soil and different forms of char amendments: a clear preference for BC, and avoidance of HC were evidenced. The preferences remained the same when the chars were sterilized leading to the conclusion that initial microorganism composition was not the reason for selection, but selection was governed by other chars’ physico-chemical properties. It remains to be elucidated which of these properties were the dominant reason for the selection. We also showed that isopods intentionally use BC as food at a similar rate to alder leaves. Medium-term exposure to HC resulted in adverse effects on isopods because it led to reduced feeding and growth, in addition to increasing GST activity, although no alterations in AChE activity were found. We suggest that behavioral tests with P. scaber could be used as a fast, reliable and economically feasible screening method for determining the safety of chars for the soil environment. Results represent significant contribution in the field of char toxicity testing, highlighting the importance of tests with isopods as important members of soil meso fauna, with the aim of influencing environmental policies and quality standards.