Environmental Biomonitoring to Identify Contaminants

Environmental biomonitoring can be a very important and inexpensive way to identify contaminants in the environment.
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Environmental biomonitoring can be a very important and inexpensive way to identify contaminants in the environment. Image: Unsplash

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Environmental biomonitoring can be a very important and inexpensive way to identify contaminants in the environment.

Over 56% of the world’s population lives in cities. Cities are responsible for 75% of global carbon dioxide emissions, with transportation and building development being among the most significant contributors. All of the different activities in cities make it hard to determine the individual contaminants that pollute them.  

Environmental biomonitoring is helping us to identify these contaminants. Environmental biomonitoring measures the levels of specific substances or markets in biological samples, including blood, urine, hair, or tissues. Environmental biomonitoring helps us assess exposure to environmental chemicals, toxins, or pollutants. Environmental biomonitoring is important in environmental and public health research and helps track exposure level changes over time.  

Researchers are turning many animals and insects, such as honeybees, to help us track contaminants. Honeybees are useful biomonitors because while they are foraging for nectar, pollen, and water, they pick up contaminants from their environment. There are several ways that bees can indicate pollution and contaminants.  

  1.  Foraging behaviour: Bees are known to avoid foraging in areas with high pollution levels or reduce activity in polluted environments. This altered behaviour can indicate the presence of pollutants such as pesticides or heavy metals in the environment.  
  1. Impact on health: Exposure to pesticides or contaminated nectar and pollen can lead to bee mortality. Researchers can study bee populations’ health to assess pollution’s impact.  
  1. Chemical analysis: Researchers can study the body of bees to identify the specific pollutants and can gain insights into the types and levels of pollutants in their environment  
  1. Population decline: A decline in bee populations can have many ecological and agricultural consequences, including the decline of many plants and crops.  
  1. Indicator species: The presence or absence can indicate the overall health of an ecosystem. If bee populations are in decline, it might suggest that there are environmental disturbances in that area.   

To study the impact of pollution on bee populations, researchers can conduct field studies, collect and analyze bee specimens and monitor bee colonies in various environments. Many other animals can be used as environmental biomonitors to help us indicate contaminants in different environments.  

Fish are commonly used for environmental biomonitoring in aquatic environments. Fish health, reproductive success and population dynamics can indicate environmental stressors. Plankton are used to identify the the nutrient levels and water quality in lakes and oceans. Bats can be used as indicators of ecosystem health and pesticide exposure. Frogs and salamanders can absorb pollutants through their permeable skin and can indicate environmental stressors, including assessing water quality and pollution levels.  

Animals, insects and even bacteria are important in environmental biomonitoring because they help us indicate ecological health. They can help us identify and minimize the impacts on human health, particularly for humans living in or in proximity to contaminated areas. By studying a range of species, scientists can assess the impact of pollutants on different levels of the food chain and in various ecosystems. Other species are more or less sensitive to different types of pollution, making them valuable tools for environmental monitoring assessment.  

The decline or suffering of species can often capture public attention and can be important to help implement conservation efforts and policy changes. Animals can raise awareness about environmental issues and promote advocacy for protective measures.  

In a perfect world, our cities would be free of contaminants. But right now, it’s not a reality. Biomonitor’s responses to environmental conditions provide essential data for conservation, public health, and policy-making, helping protect wildlife and human well-being. They will help us to help reduce our harmful impacts in cities and help to think of healthier and safer ways to reduce contaminants.  

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