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1. Introduction

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The term
‘Bioindicators’ refers to any organism, species, communities or biological
processes, which help to qualitatively monitor the status of the environment in
which they live by means of their function as well as their population. The
occurrence of any environmental change or problem within an ecosystem can be
predicted very easily by any changes in the population status, behavior, and
physiology of such organisms. The identification of any species as a
bioindicator is reflected by any fluctuation in the abundance and population of
the species in response to any environmental change in a particular habitat.
Bioindicators are useful in providing information about the health of an
ecosystem since the organisms of these species are highly sensitive to the changes
in their surroundings. Therefore, the sampling and studying about the
population dynamics of such organisms makes it possible to monitor any
ecological changes. This in turn helps in identifying the positive and negative
effects of human activities in that area. A bioindicator has certain
requirements regarding a known set of physical or chemical variables such that
variations in the presence or absence, morphology, physiology, population or
behavior of the given species suggests that the prescribed physical or chemical
variables are outside their preferred limits. Generally, bioindicators are
denoted as species which respond to anthropogenic effects on the environment. A
more general and all-inclusive definition of a biological indicator states: “a
species or a group of species that voluntarily imitates the abiotic or biotic
state of an environment, represents the effect of environmental change on a
habitation, community or ecosystem or is indicative of the diversity of a
subset of taxa or the whole diversity within an area”. Bioindicators help
in the assessment of the quality of the environment and how it changes over a
given period. These can be plants, animals, algae, lichens, zooplanktons,
insects, amphipods, mollusks, echinoderms, and other micro-organisms. Even
human nail & hair can also be used as bioindicators. Bioindicators find
usage in monitoring air, soil and water quality and in the assessment of the
overall biodiversity. These can also help in determining the progress of
mitigative measures implemented for environmental conservation and thus play a
significant role in nature conservation too. The information provided by
bioindicators is adequate and reliable and might be difficult to obtain or
quantify in such a quick manner using other means.

The usefulness of bioindicators is most observed in given three

1) when it is
impossible to measure the indicated environmental factor-

e.g. in situations
where environmental factors in the past are reconstructed such as climatic
change, studied in palaeo-biomonitoring

2) when the
measurement of the indicated factor very difficult-

e.g. pesticides
and their remains or complex toxic effluents comprising several interacting
chemicals and

3) when the
measurement of the environmental factor is possible and easy but the
interpretation is quite difficult-

whether the observed changes are of ecological significance.

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