Considerable attention has been devoted to selecting bioindicator species as part of monitoring programs for exposure and effects from contaminants in the environment. Yet the rationale for selection of bioindicators is often literature-based, rather than developed with a firm site-specific base of data on contaminant levels in a diverse range of organisms at different trophic levels in the same ecosystem. We suggest that this latter step is an important phase in the environmental assessment process that is often missing. In this paper we address the problem of how to select a wide range of species representing different trophic levels that serve as a basis for selecting a few species suitable as bioindicators. We illustrate this with our assessment of radionuclides on Amchitka Island, Alaska. We propose a multi-stage process for arriving at the list of available species that includes review of literature, review by experts experienced in the area, review by interested and affected parties, selection of trophic levels or groups for analysis, arraying of possible species, and selection of species within each trophic level group for sample collection. We first had to identify all likely species, then narrow our focus to those we could collect and analyze. In all cases, review includes suggestions for possible target species with justifications. While this method increases the up-front costs of developing bioindicators for an ecosystem, it has the advantage of providing information for selection of species that will be most informative in the long run, including those that are the best bioaccumulators, thus providing the earliest warning of any potential environmental consequences. Further, the recognition that a range of stakeholder's needs and interests should be included increases the utility for public-policy makers, and the potential for continued usage to establish long-term trends.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- General Environmental Science
- Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
- Biological diversity
- Trophic groups