Vol.2, No.9, 1022-1029 (2010) Natural Science
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. OPEN ACCESS
Microfungal communities in soil polluted with fluoride
Galina A. Evdokimova*, Maria V. Korneykova
Laboratory of Microorganisms Ecology, Institute of the North Industrial Ecology Problems, Kola Science Centre of Russian
Academy of Sciences, Apatity, Russia; *Corresponding Author: galina@inep.ksc.ru
Received 22 May 2010; revised 23 June 2010; accepted 27 June 2010.
There have been identified three zones accord-
ing to the degree of soil pollution with fluoride
in the impact area of air emissions of the Kan-
dalaksha Aluminium Smelter (Russia): zone of
maximum pollution up to 2.5 km from the emis-
sion source with the content of fluoride from
5000 to 1200 mg/kg, zone of strong pollution up
to 13 km from the plant with the content of fluo-
ride between 1200-400 mg/kg and zone of mod-
erate pollution up to 20 km from the source with
content of fluoride between 400-200 mg/kg.
Emissions of the aluminium plant have reduced
the number and the diversity of fungi and have
caused an increase in fungal communities that
are potentially pathogenic fungi. The biomass of
fungi has decreased in the organic horizon of
the maximum polluted soil from 5.4 to 3.6 mg/g.
As a whole, emissions from the aluminium plant
in the Murmansk region are less toxic for the
environment, than emissions of copper-nickel
Keywords: Pollution Gradient; Fluoride; Soil
Fungal Communities; Number; Diversity; Structure
The combination of high level of industrial development
and extreme nature condition in the Murmansk region of
Russia affect the condition of ecosystems. Traditionally
in the Kola Peninsula researchers pay the most attention to
the environmental pollution by heavy metals and sulphur
dioxide [1-5]. At the same time, the enterprises of non-
ferrous metallurgy and superphosphate factories emit into
the air of Murmansk region more than 800 tons of fluoride
hydrogen (HF) per year. Most part from this volume (700
tons) is from Kandalaksha Aluminium Smelter (KAS).
The influence on ecosystems from companies like Kan-
dalaksha Aluminium Smelter has been insufficiently
studied. The first recognized research has shown that
macro- and microelements found in air emissions from
КAS are accumulated considerably in the soil, mainly in
its organic horizon, as well as in plants [6,7].
The main compounds in the air emissions from KAS
are fluoride and aluminium (Al2О3—5000 t/year). In
spite of the fact, that more aluminium gets to the envi-
ronment with air emissions, than fluorine, the toxicity of
the latter one for biota is more considerable. Fluorine
and its compounds belong to the 1st class of hazard of
substances and are found in emissions basically in the
form of water-soluble compounds, accessible for biota
compounds (up to 90%). Aluminium belongs to the third
class of hazard and is part of, basically, a solid phase of
atmospheric emissions poorly accessible to live organ-
isms (up to 98%) [8]. Besides, the studied Al-Fe-humus
soils dominating in the Kola Peninsula, contain signifi-
cant amounts of aluminium (Al2O3 up to 15% on anneal
soil), and we can speak about the adaptation of soil mi-
crobiota to the high content of this element.
It is known, that high concentrations of fluorine and its
compounds are dangerous for living organisms, including
humans being [9-13]. Higher content of fluorine-ions lead
to the inhibition of some enzyme reactions, to the linking
of biogenous elements (P, Ca, Mg etc.) and the disturbance
of their balance in the organism. The increased concentra-
tions of compounds of aluminium and fluorine are the
reason of diseases of respiratory organs and ossa.
Microscopic fungi are essential components of the for-
est ecosystem. Fungi take part in the soil-forming proc-
esses mainly by destructing organic compounds (vegeta-
ble waste, humus, xenobiotic). Fungi reduce toxicity of
soils by accumulation, chelatization, and detoxication of
toxic elements. They perform biogenic migration of
elements in soil and also are bioindicators of pollution.
Change in the structure and functions of fungal commu-
nities, which in the modern biosphere, primarily relate to
the anthropogenic effects may lead to abnormalities in
substance transformation in soils and the biosphere as a
The goal of work is to study the number and diversity
G. A. Evdokimova et al. / Natural Science 2 (2010) 1023-1029
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. OPEN ACCESS
of soil microfungi, structural changes of fungal commu-
nities in soils under influence of polluted air emissions
from an aluminium plant, herein KAS as an example.
2.1. Stationary Plots
The studies are carried out at stationary plots located
along the KAS air emissions gradient (67о00´N, 32o00´E)
at 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 (the background plot) km north-
wards from the plant. All the plots (100 m2) were estab-
lished in pine forests with dwarf shrubs (predominantly,
crowberry Empetrum hermaphroditum) and green mosses
in the ground cover. The soil cover of territories in
which the stationary plots are located, is presented by
Al-Fe-humus podzol on sandy moraine. The thickness of
organic horizon is about 3-5 sm. The sampling was car-
ried out in spring, summer, autumn periods in 2003-2007
years in three replications (162 samples). The mass of
each sample made 300-400 g. In 2005 year soil samples
were taken from organic horizon following the pollution
gradient of 0.5, 1.0, 1.5, 2.0, 3.0, 4.0, 5.0, 7.5, 10.0, 12.5,
15.0, 17.5, 20.0, 50.0 km from the emission source, three
replications at each point (42 samples).
2.2. Micological Analyses
For the micological analysis soil samples from organic
horizon were taken. Totally, 204 soil samples were ana-
lysed. All analyses are carried out the next day after
sampling that means fresh samples was analysed. The
total the length of fungal mycelium is determined by the
method of fluorescent microscopy using polycarbone
membrane filters Cyclopore Blask with pores diameter
of 0.8 microns and FITC dye (fluorescein-5-isothiocya-
nate) [14]. The biomass of fungi was determined, by
assuming the weight of 1 m of mycelium equal to
1.1·10-6 g. The number of viable fungi was found by the
plating method on wort agar with streptomycin. Separa-
tion of fungi was realized from this same medium. The
identification of microscopic fungi was done based on
keys [15-18]. Species names of fungi were specified ac-
cording to lists in the database “Species fungorum”
(www.speciesfungorum.org). For characterization of str-
ucture of fungal communities are used indices of spatial
and temporal occurrence frequency of species [19] (see
the bottom).
The fungus Aspergillus niger was used as a test cul-
ture, capable of changing pigmentation of spores, de-
pending on the nutrient medium composition [20]. The
fungus was grown on liquid wort with addition of NaF.
Concentrations of fluorine ion were, mg/l: 50, 100, 500,
1000, 1500. The control wort did not have F-. Each
variant comprised three replications. Incubation was
carried out within 7 days at +27.
2.3. Chemical Analyses of Soil
The content of fluorine in organic horizon was found by
ionselective method using the pH/ION ANALYSER
after burning soil at temperature of 950 and fusion of
ashes with borax. The total composition of organic hori-
zons was determined after burning soil of the sample
(950) and fusion of ashes with soda. Si was found
using the weight method, while Р and Ti were deter-
mined by colorimetri, K and Na—using a flame pho-
tometer, other elements using the AАS-method in ac-
credited laboratoty INEP.
2.4. Statistics
Quantitative ecological indices (Shannon, Pielu, Simp-
son), characterizing the structure of the fungal commu-
nity, have been calculated by Odum [21]. The obtained
data have been processed by means of Excel 2003 statis-
tical programs.
3.1. The Content of Macro- and
Microelements in Soil
A considerable part of components contained in air
emissions from KAS, gets into the soil surface in the
form of solid falls [22]. They cause essential accumula-
tion of mineral substances in the organic horizon of soil,
as a result of the ash content in the heavily polluted or-
ganic horizon reaches 60% while the background area
does not exceed 10%, and the carbon and nitrogen con-
tent decreases 2 times (Table 1). The increase of the ash
content in organic horizons took place as a result of an
increase in the content of most of the chemical elements.
The most evident dependence of the total content on the
intensity of pollution is observed concerning Si, Al and
Ti. The content of heavy metals Zn, Cr, Mn and Cu also
increases. So the quantity of Cr here exceeds 7 times
while Zn almost 3 times, compared to the content in the
Number of samples in which the species was found
Spatial frequency, % 100
Total number of samples analysed
Number of sampling period in which the species was found
Temporal frequency, % 100
Total number of sampling period
G. A. Evdokimova et al. / Natural Science 2 (2010) 1023-1029
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. OPEN ACCESS
Table 1. Chemical composition of organic horizon (n = 162).
SiО2 Al2О3 Fe2О3 TiО2 CaО MgО Р2О5 K2О
km % of dry matter
2 28.0 ± 4.19 17.80 ± 0.28 3.67 ± 0.060.60 ± 0.010.38 ± 0.030.88 ± 0.00 0.29 ± 0.02 0.88 ± 0.01
5 11.71 ± 0.86 6.21 ± 0.39 1.59 ± 0.080.19 ± 0.010.36 ± 0.020.33 ± 0.04 0.24 ± 0.01 0.32 ± 0.05
10 8.74 ± 0.08 4.6 ± 0.12 2.26 ± 0.020.16 ± 0.000.28 ± 0.010.29 ± 0.00 0.23 ± 0.01 0.27 ± 0.01
20 4.66 ± 1.31 1.51 ± 0.29 0.68 ± 0.100.06 ± 0.010.45 ± 0.020.20 ± 0.01 0.24 ± 0.01 0.19 ± 0.02
F Al Mn Zn Cr Ni Cu
Distance, km
2 2587 ± 136 256000 ± 2800 384 ± 58 201 ± 7 85 ± 12 80 ± 9 104 ± 9
5 711 ± 57 781000 ± 3900 273 ± 34 109 ± 10 35 ± 4 86 ± 6 59 ± 1
10 360 ± 26 108000 ± 1200 207 ± 25 111 ± 14 28 ± 3 128 ± 1 84 ± 5
20 114 ± 13 9000 ± 2900 161 ± 35 73 ± 3 12 ± 3 117 ± 7 53 ± 9
organic horizon of the background plot.
If we estimate the content of heavy metals and com-
pare it to the indicators of maximum permissible con-
centrations (MPCs) it can be noted, that in the most pol-
luted organic horizon the content of Cu had reached the
MPC for Cu, which according to Kloke [23] is 100
mg/kg for soil. The contents of Zn and Cr are below the
MPCs (300 and 100 mg/kg, respectively). The amount of
Ni in all soil samples exceeded 2 and more times the
MPC for Ni (50 mg/kg), possibly additional Ni comes
from the Severonikel plant located 100 km to the north
of the studied area. As a whole we can note that the
long-term impact on soils of industrial deposition from
the aluminium plant the pollution level with heavy met-
als has not reached the critical state.
The distribution of total fluoride in organic horizon
along the pollution gradient is presented in Figure 1. A
clear dependence of the content of fluoride in soil on the
distance from the source of emissions can be seen. The
most abrupt drop of the content of total fluoride is ob-
served throughout the first 2 km from the emission
source, the farther from the plant the lower is the content
of fluoride.
There were identified three zones, differing by the in-
tensity of the pollution of organic horizon of the forest
podzol soil with fluoride (Table 2). In the zone of
maximum pollution the fluoride content in organic hori-
zon exceeds the MPC of F (200 mg/kg) 25 times. In the
zone of strong pollution the total content of fluoride in
soil exceeds the MPC almost ten times, and in the zone
of moderate pollution—two times. The shares of wa-
ter-soluble fluorides are on the average 10.3% of the
total content of fluoride in organic horizon.
Near the plant an abrupt decrease of soil acidity (pH
y = 2735.7x
= 0.9118
0 1020304050
Figure 1. Content of total fluorine in soil (mg/kg) along the
pollution gradient from KAS (mean data, n = 42).
Table 2. Zones of soil pollution (organic horizon) with fluo-
Pollution level Distance, km F, mg/kg
Maximum 0-2 > 1200
Strong 2-13 1200-400
Moderate 13-20 400-200
Background > 20 < 200
water suspension from 4.05 to 5.75) is observed. This is
connected with the neutralization of the bases Mg and
Ca contained in the emissions.
Thus, the influence of emissions from the KAS has
affect on not only the fluoride content in soil but has also
led to considerable accumulation in the organic horizon
of mineral substances, including many macro-and mi-
croelements. The influence of solid emissions was so
high that it caused a basic change of the ratio of organic
and mineral parts of the organic horizon. In the zone of
maximum pollution the mineral part became a main com-
G. A. Evdokimova et al. / Natural Science 2 (2010) 1023-1029
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. OPEN ACCESS
ponent of the upper soil horizon.
3.2. Number, Biomass, Diversity of Fungi
and Structure of Fungal Communities
in Soils Polluted with Fluoride
The emissions from the KAS have in the most consider-
able way affected the number and diversity of fungi.
There have been observed a decrease of the number and
biomass of fungi as the degree of soil pollution with
emissions of aluminium plant is increasing using both
the methods: of plating and the method of fluorescent
The quantity of fungi colony-forming units (CFU) in
the organic horizon of the plot located 2 km from the
plant is 5 times less than the CFU number in the soil of
plots at the distance of 10 and 20 km from the plant, and
9 times in comparison with the background plot (Figure
2). The length of fungal mycelium was reduced from
5000 m/g in the soil of the background to 3000 m/g in
the most polluted soil plot (t = 12.4, p < 0.001), and the
biomass from 5.4 mg/g to 3.6 mg/g.
There were isolated 44 species of microscopic fungi
from the soils of stationary plots. They related to 18
genera, 6 orders, 4 classes and 3 divisions (Table 3).
There have been revealed distinctions in taxonomic di-
versity of soil fungi in the background and polluted soils.
In the polluted soil a tendency of reduction of species
diversity of fungal communities, a change of their com-
position and structure compared to the background soil
is observed. In the most polluted soil 26 species of mi-
croscopic fungi have been identified, 29 species in the
strong polluted soil and 35 species in the background
The dominating position in podzols of the Kola Pen-
insula is occupied by fungi of Penicillium genus [24],
which is characteristic also for the podzols polluted with
fluoride. In the maximum polluted soil this genus is pre-
2510 20 50
thous. CFU/g
Figure 2. Changes of fungal number (thous. CFU/g) in soil
along the pollution gradient from KAS.
sented by 10 species, in the strong polluted one by 14,
and in the background by 13 species. Тhe representatives
of Mucorales order, sensitive to emissions of the alu-
minium enterprise, are more widely spread in the back-
ground soil.
Under the influence of emissions from the aluminium
plant essential changes in the structure of the fungal
communities have taken place. Indices of spatial and
temporal occurrence frequency of species are calculated.
Based on these indices the dominating species in the
fungal communities as defined as (spatial and temporal
occurrence frequency > 60%), frequent (spatial and tem-
poral occurrence frequency > 30%), rare (spatial occur-
rence frequency < 30%, and the temporal one > 30%,
and casual species (both indices < 30%).
In the polluted soil the following species dominates:
Penicillium canescens, P. decumbens and P. raistrickii,
in the background: P. implicatum, P. decumbens, Um-
belopsis isabellina and Mortierella longicollis. The fre-
quent species in the polluted soil includes: Aspergillus
fumigatus, P. glabrum, P. ochraceum, P. spinulosum, P.
thomii and Trichoderma viride, and in the background:
Acremonium rutilum, Aspergillus fumigatus, Aureo-
basidium pullulans var. pullulans, Cladosporium herba-
rum, P. adametzii, P. restrictum, P. glabrum and P. cane-
Only in the polluted soil there are revealed rare or
quite atypical species for zonal soils: Aspergillus niger
var. niger, Paecilomyces variotii, P. chermesinum, P.
variabile, Phoma medicaginis, Thielaviopsis basicola,
Torula allii, Myxotrichum cancellatum and Trichocla-
dium asperum. Only in the background soil was found
Mortierella alpina, Mucor plumbeus, M. racemosus, P.
lividum, P. citrinum, Sordaria macrospora and Tricho-
derma polysporum.
Under the influence of industrial emissions from the
aluminium plant the part of pathogenic and potentially
pathogenic species causing various kinds of mycoses of
both endogenous and exogenous character increases in
the fungal community. At the background plot, the part
of potentially pathogenic fungi is 25%, and at the pol-
luted one—40% of the total population of species. This
include first of all opportunistic mycoses pathogens from
genera Aspergillus (A. fumigatus, A. niger), Cladosporium
(C. herbarum) and Paecilomyces (P. variotii) [25,26].
The ones that possessing pathogenic properties are Al-
ternaria alternata, Aureobasidium pullulans, P. auran-
tiogriseum, P. glabrum, P. simplicissimum, Trichoderma
viride and T. koningii, these are causing diseases of res-
piratory and digestive systems.
Quantitative ecological indices confirm the conclu-
sions about the decrease of species diversity and the
change of the structure of fungal communities in the soils
G. A. Evdokimova et al. / Natural Science 2 (2010) 1023-1029
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. OPEN ACCESS
Table 3. Species composition and occurrence frequency of fungi were separated from soil polluted with fluorine.
Occurrence frequency, %
2 km 10 km 50 km
Division Zygomycota
Class Zygomycetes
Order Mucorales
Gongronella butleri (Lendn.) Peyronel et Dal Vesco – 28/20 20/20
Mortierella alpina Peyronel – – 25/20
M. longicollis Dixon-Stew. 37/40 65/80 62/60
Mucоr plumbeus Bonord. – – +
M. racemosus Fresen. – – 15/20
Mucor sp. – 40/40 10/40
Umbelopsis isabellina (Oudem.)W.Gams – 27/30 70/60
U. ramanniana (A.Mǿller)W.Gams 24/20 – 32/20
Division Ascomycota
Class Pyrenomycetes
Order Sphaeriales
Sordaria macrospora Auersw. – – 10/20
Order Eurotiales
Myxotrichum cancellatum W.Phillips + – –
Mitosporic fungi
Class Hyphomycetes
Order Hyphomycetales
Acremonium rutilum W.Gams 21/20 38/40 31/60
Alternaria alternata (Fr.:Fr.)Keis sl . – 20/40 40/40
Aspergillus fumigatus Fresen. 31/40 30/40 46/40
A. niger var. niger Tiegh. + – –
Aureobasidium pullulans var. pullulans (de Bary)
G.Arnaud 25/40 29/20 50/40
Cladosporium herbarum (Pers.)Link – 15/20 35/40
Paecilomyces variotii Bainier + – –
Penicillium adametzii K.M.Zalessky – 32/40 45/60
P. aurantiogriseum Dierckx – + +
P. canescens Sopp 79/100 22/40 38/40
P. citrinum Thom – – +
P. chermesinum Biourge + – –
P. corylophilum Dierckx + + –
P. decumbens Thom 75/80 72/100 61/100
P. dierckxii Biourge – 18/20 6/40
P. implicatum Biourge – 60/60 71/60
P. glabrum (Wehmer) Westling 70/40 35/40 40/60
G. A. Evdokimova et al. / Natural Science 2 (2010) 1023-1029
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. OPEN ACCESS
P. lividum Westling – – +
P. ochraceum Bainier:Thom 35/40 15/20 –
P. raistrickii G. Sm. 72/60 63/80 28/80
P. restrictum J.C.Gilman et E.V. Abbott – 40/40 38/60
P. simplicissimum (Oudem.)Thom – + –
P. spinulosum Thom 32/40 32/40 13/20
P. thomii Maire 43/40 42/80 7/20
P. variabile Sopp 25/40 – –
Thielaviopsis basicola (Berk. et Broome) Ferraris + – –
Torula herbarum (Pers.)Link 18/20 15/20 –
T. allii (Harz) Sacc. + – –
Trichocladium asperum Harz + – –
Trichoderma koningii Oudem. 30/20 20/20 12/40
T. polysporum (Link)Rifai – – 24/20
T. viride Pers. 50/60 13/40 17/40
Order Agonomycetales
Mycelia sterilia white 84/100 60/100 62/100
Class Coelomycetes
Order Sphaeropsidales
Phoma eupyrena Sacc. – 22/20 10/40
P. medicaginis Malbr. et Roum. 21/20 – –
polluted with fluoride (Table 4). The Shannon index,
characterising the general species diversity, in the back-
ground, heavily polluted and strong polluted soil is 3.05,
2.35 and 2.08 bits/copies, respectively.
Usually the community composition includes some
dominating species of high number and many rare spe-
cies of low number, which was observed in the commu-
nity of background soil. In the polluted soils the quantity
of dominating species decreases. The value of Simpson
index reflecting the representativeness of dominant-spe-
cies decreases when the distance from the plant increases,
opposite trend is observed for the Pielu index for uni-
formity of species diversity the – it increases.
The Sorensen index (S) characterises the similarity
(dissimilarity = 100 – S) in species composition of fun-
gal communities at stationary plots depending on the
degree of pollution. The similarity in the fungal commu-
nity between the maximum polluted (2 km from the
plant) and the background plot is 50%, i.e. 50% of fungi
species isolated from the background soil have not been
found in soils with high level of pollution with fluorine
containing compounds. Between the strong polluted (10
km from the plant) and the background plots the similar-
ity in fungal species composition is considerably above
Using Aspergillus niger as test-culture it was found
that fluorine influences the process of spore formation
and pigmentation of fungal spores. These fungi can be a
good indicator of the fluorine content in soil. As the
concentration of F- increases in the nutrient medium
from 0 to 500 mg/l the colouring of Aspergillus niger
spores provides the whole range of shades from black to
white (Table 5). At concentration of F- = 500 mg/l and
more the formation of spore stops.
Thus, one of the reasons of a decrease in fungal bio-
mass in the soils that are exposed to emissions from the
aluminium plant is the inhibition by fluorine on the
spore-formation process. As whole, emissions from the
aluminium enterprise have a reducing effect on the de-
velopment of soil microscopic fungi, causing a decrease
Table 4. Change of quantitative indices are characterized com-
plexes of soil fungi along the pollution gradient (n = 162).
Distance from KAS
2 km 10 km 50 km
Shannon index 2.08 2.35 3.05
Pielu index 0.72 0.82 0.95
Simpson index 0.38 0.34 0.18
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Copyright © 2010 SciRes. OPEN ACCESS
Table 5. The change of spore pigmentation in Aspergillus niger
at various concentrations of ions of fluorine in a nutrient me-
Content of F- mg/l Pigmentation of spores
0 Black
50 Dark grey
100 Light grey
300 White
500 There are no spores
in their number, biomass and increase part of pathogenic
and potentially pathogenic species in fungal community.
There has been carried out zoning of soils, which are
under the impact of air emissions from the aluminium
plant (the Kandalaksha plant, Russia). There have been
identified three zones based on the degree of soil pollu-
tion with fluoride: a zone of maximum pollution up to
2.5 km from the emission source with content of fluoride
from 1200 mg/kg and more, a zone of strong pollution
up to 13 km from the plant with the content of fluoride
between 1200-400 mg/kg and a zone of moderate pollu-
tion up to 20 km from the source with the content of
fluoride between 400-200 mg/kg. The solid falls, which
are a part of the air emissions, have caused a basic
change of the ratio of organic and mineral parts in the
composition of organic horizon. The mineral part (ashes)
has increased up to 60% compared to the background
value as a result of accumulation first of all such ele-
ments as Si, Al and Ti.
Emissions from the aluminium plant have reduced the
number and the diversity of fungi and have caused an
increase of fungal communities in the part of potential
pathogenic fungi. Only in the polluted soil rare or just
atypical species for zonal soils are selected: Aspergillus
niger var. niger, Paecilomyces variotii, P. chermesinum,
P. variabile, Phoma medicaginis, Thielaviopsis basicola,
Torula allii, Myxotrichum cancellatum, and Trichocla-
dium asperum. Among these there are activators of op-
portunistic mycoses. Aspergillus niger is a good indica-
tor of soil pollution with fluorine, changing pigmentation
of its spores depending on the quantity of fluorine in the
The industrial deposition from the aluminium plant
(the Kandalaksha plant) influences to a lesser degree on
soil and vegetation cover than emissions from the cop-
per-nickel enterprise (“Severonikel” and “Pechengani-
kel”). Only an appreciable damage of tree layer at a dis-
tance of 5 km from the source is observed for the alu-
minium plant, compared to the copper-nickel smelter
this distance is up to 40 km in the wind rose.
This study was supported by a grant of the Presidium of Russian
Academy of Sciences «Biodiversity». We also thank E. Lebedeva for
their help in identification of fungi.
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