Assessing Sources of Stress to Aquatic Ecosystems Using Integrated Biomarkers

  • S. M. Adams
Conference paper


Establishing causal relationships between sources of environmental stressors and aquatic ecosystem health is difficult because of the many biotic and abiotic factors which can influence or modify responses of biological systems to stress, the orders of magnitude involved in extrapolation over both spatial and temporal scales, and compensatory mechanisms such as density-dependent responses that operate in populations. To address the problem of establishing causality between stressors and effects on aquatic systems, a diagnostic approach, based on exposure-response profiles for various anthropogenic activities, was developed to help identify sources of stress responsible for effects on aquatic systems at ecological significant levels of biological organization (individual, population, community). To generate these exposure-effects profiles, biomarkers of exposure were plotted against bioindicators of corresponding effects for several major anthropogenic activities including petrochemical, pulp and paper, domestic sewage, mining operations, land-development activities, and agricultural activities. Biomarkers of exposure to environmental stressors varied depending on the type of anthropogenic activity involved. Bioindicator effects, however, including histopathological lesions, bioenergetic status, individual growth, reproductive impairment, and community-level responses, were similar among many of the major anthropogenic activities. This approach is valuable to help identify and diagnose sources of stressors in environments impacted by multiple stressors. By identifying the types and sources of environmental stressors, aquatic ecosystems can be more effectively protected and managed to maintain acceptable levels of environmental quality and ecosystem fitness.


Domestic Sewage Mixed Function Oxidase Paper Mill Effluent Clark Fork Pulp Mill Effluent 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. M. Adams
    • 1
  1. 1.Environmental Sciences DivisionOak Ridge National LaboratoryOak RidgeUSA

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