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Ecotoxicol Environ Saf. 2003 Mar;54(3):366-74.

Invertebrate biomarkers: links to toxicosis that predict population decline.

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  • 1A Cooperative Research Centre for Freshwater Ecology and Ecotoxicology Section, Environment Protection Authority New South Wales, EPA/UTS Centre for Ecotoxicology, Westbourne Street, Gore Hill, NSW 2065, Australia.


The application of biochemical measurements that can be used as individual biomarkers of impaired biological function in invertebrates is reviewed to evaluate whether biochemical biomarkers of aquatic invertebrates can predict changes in natural populations. Biomarkers that measure toxic effects at the molecular level (e.g., the inhibition of brain acetylcholinesterase activity by organophosphorus pesticides) have been shown to provide rapid quantitative predictions of a toxic effect upon individuals in laboratory studies. Such biomarkers should not be used as a replacement for conventional aquatic monitoring techniques, but should be applied as supplementary approaches for demonstrating links between sublethal biochemical and adverse effects in natural populations in field studies. The research challenge for using biomarker measurements in aquatic invertebrates is to predict effects at the population level from effects at the individual level measured upon individuals collected in the field.

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