Use of the land snail Helix aspersa for monitoring heavy metal soil contamination in Northeast Algeria

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Abstract The objective of this study was to investigate the impact of anthropogenic activities on soil quality using the land snail Helix aspersa as a bioindicator. Soil samples and snails were collected from several sites in Northeast Algeria during the summer and winter of 2010. All of the sites were chosen due to their proximity to industrial factories – a potential source of soil pollution via heavy metal contamination. The concentration of heavy metals (Pb, Cd, Mn, and Fe) in soil samples was analyzed using atomic absorption spectrophotometry. Activity levels of glutathione S-transferase (GST) and acetylcholinesterase (AChE), indicators of oxidative stress and neurotoxicity respectively, were measured in snails collected from each site. GST and AChE activity were found to vary between sites and by season. The highest levels of GST activity were registered during the summer at sites closest to potential sources of pollution. AChE activity levels also peaked during the summer with the highest values recorded at the site in El Hadjar. These increased levels of bioindicative stress response correlated with increasing metal concentration in soil samples collected at each site.