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The current decline of invertebrates worldwide is alarming. Several potential causes have been proposed but metal pollutants, while being widespread in the air, soils and water, have so far been largely overlooked. Here, we reviewed the results of 527 observations of the effects of arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury on terrestrial invertebrates. These four well-studied metals are considered as priorities for public health and for which international regulatory guidelines exist. We found that they all significantly impact the physiology and behavior of invertebrates, even at levels below those recommended as ‘safe’ for humans. Our results call for a revision of the regulatory thresholds to better protect terrestrial invertebrates, which appear to be more sensitive to metal pollution than vertebrates. More fundamental research on a broader range of compounds and species is needed to improve international guidelines for metal pollutants, and to develop conservation plans to protect invertebrates and ecosystem services.
Bibliographical noteCopyright the Author(s) 2021. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.
- Heavy metals
- International guidelines
- Invertebrate decline
- Environmental pollution
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