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, 45 (1-12), 46-52

Biomagnification in Marine Systems: The Perspective of an Ecologist


Biomagnification in Marine Systems: The Perspective of an Ecologist

John S Gray. Mar Pollut Bull.


Biomagnification is the process where xenobiotic substances are transferred from food to an organism resulting in higher concentrations compared with the source. It is Widely believed that this is a general phenomenon for marine food webs. An analysis of 148 papers with biomagnification in the title shows that under half show biomagnification. Of studies on metals only organic mercury shows biomagnification and most metals are regulated and excreted and do not biomagnify. Of the studies on organic compounds 67% claimed to show biomagnification. However, bioconcentration (uptake from the surrounding water) is the most usual way that organic compounds are accumulated in organisms from invertebrates to and including fish. Only in sea-birds and marine mammals is food intake the major route and where biomagnification can be clearly shown. Body concentrations of organic compounds vary with lipid content and thus in order to compare across species normalisation to uniform lipid content should be done. Yet often this is not done so data purporting to show biomagnification merely relate to differing lipid content in the different species studied. Finally suggestions are made as to how data can be collected to better interpret the process of biomagnification in marine food webs.

Comment in

  • Biomagnification
    AT Fisk et al. Mar Pollut Bull 46 (4), 522-4; author reply 525-6. PMID 12705926.

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