Bio-monitoring to track pollutants, trace elements

April 26th, 2008 - 12:29 pm ICT by admin  

London, April 26 (IANS) Bio-monitoring can be used in environments where a technological approach to monitoring pollutants, particulates and trace elements is not only difficult and costly but may be impossible, say scientists. “It allows continuous observation of an area with the help of bio-indicators, an organism that reveals the presence of a substance in its surroundings with observable and measurable changes, such as accumulation of pollutants, which can be distinguished from the effects of natural stress,” said Borut Smodis of the Jozef Stefan Institute in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

Smodiš pointed to numerous other advantages of bio-monitoring.

“Simple and inexpensive sampling procedures allow a very large number of sites to be included in the same survey, permitting detailed geographical patterns to be drawn.

“Bio-monitoring can be an effective tool for pollutant mapping and trend monitoring in real time and retrospective analysis,” he said.

While any organism might be used as a bio-monitoring agent, Smodiš said that mosses and lichens, which lack root systems, are dependent on surface absorption of nutrients, so reflect materials absorbed from the atmosphere rather than the soil.

In 1998, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) started a Coordinated Research Project on bio monitoring.

Several papers detail methodologies, case studies and other aspects of various projects within this initiative and point to future avenues that might be explored.

While bio-monitoring techniques are improving rapidly and researchers are quickly validating results at the local level, Smodiš said there is no single species that could be used on the global scale.

These issues are being discussed in a forthcoming special issue of International Journal of Environment and Pollution.

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