Trophic transfer and bioaccumulation of lead along soil–plant–aphid–ladybird food chain

  • Mohd Irfan NaikooEmail author
  • Mudasir Irfan Dar
  • Fareed Ahmad Khan
  • Fariha Raghib
  • Nishanta Rajakaruna
Research Article


Lead (Pb) contamination of agroecosystems is a serious issue as Pb is a persistent pollutant that is retained in soil for long, causing toxicities to organisms. This study examines biotransfer of Pb from soils treated with different concentrations of Pb through a broad bean (Vicia faba L.)–aphid (Aphis fabae Scop.)–ladybird (Coccinella transversalis Fabricius) food chain and its consequent inference for natural biological control, the ladybird. The soil was amended with Pb at the rates of 0, 25, 50, 75 and 100 mg kg−1 (w/w). The amount of Pb in plant, aphid and ladybird increased in a dose-dependent manner to Pb contents in the soil. The results showed that Pb biomagnified from soil to root with transfer coefficient always > 1. Biominimization of Pb occurred at the second trophic level in aphids and at the third trophic level in ladybirds as their respective transfer coefficients from shoot to aphid and aphid to ladybird were always < 1. The increased elimination of Pb via aphid excreta (honeydew) and pupal exuviae in a dose-dependent manner suggests that these are possible detoxification mechanisms at two different trophic levels which control Pb bioaccumulation along the food chain. The statistically significant (p ≤ 0.05) decreases in biomass and predation rate of predatory ladybirds at 100 mg kg−1 Pb indicate that high dose of Pb in soil may have sub-lethal effects on ladybirds. Further studies at cellular and sub-cellular levels are needed to further document the potential mechanisms of achieving Pb homeostasis in ladybirds under Pb stress.


Accumulation Lead Trophic level Aphid Ladybird Biomagnification 



Authors are grateful to the chairman, Department of Botany, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh, for providing necessary facilities during the research. Dr. Iain Green, Department of Life and Environmental Science, Bournemouth University, UK, is acknowledged for providing the Certified Reference Material. Research fellowship to the first author by University Grants Commission, New Delhi, India, is gratefully acknowledged. NR was funded by a South and Central Asia Regional Travel Grant, The United States-India Educational Foundation.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Plant Ecology and Environment Laboratory, Department of BotanyAligarh Muslim UniversityAligarhIndia
  2. 2.Biological Sciences DepartmentCalifornia Polytechnic State UniversitySan Luis ObispoUSA
  3. 3.Unit for Environmental Sciences and ManagementNorth-West UniversityPotchefstroomSouth Africa

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