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Bioindicators: what are they, types and examples

Nowadays, there are more and more innovative tools and methodologies that make it possible to face environmental risks during environmental monitoring programs. However, beyond new technologies and innovations, there are numerous and diverse natural resources that allow effective monitoring of environmental problems related to pollution of ecosystems. We are talking about environmental bioindicators.

If you want to discover how important the presence of bioindicators is for ecosystems and how they are interpreted and used by experts, in this AgroCorrn article you will find all the information you need to know in detail what bioindicators are, their types and examples .

What are environmental bioindicators and what are they for?

As described in 1999 by the scientists Spanh and Sherry, environmental bioindicators are all those living organisms which, thanks to their ecological characteristics, have a high sensitivity to the different environmental changes that occur in nature, reacting to to them as if they were specific stimuli. These bioindicators are capable of reacting to the presence of pollutant accumulations much earlier than artificial or abiotic indicators do.

In this way, environmental bioindicators constitute one of the most used work tools in biomonitoring programs , which allow us to know if there are risks of environmental contamination in the different ecosystems of the planet, both in terrestrial, aquatic and aerial ecosystems.

Types of environmental bioindicators

Now that we know what exactly environmental bioindicators are, in the following list we will see the different types of bioindicators that exist depending on the type of ecosystem on which they act:

  • Air bioindicators
  • Water bioindicators
  • Soil bioindicators
  • Urban bioindicators
  • Marine bioindicators

In the next section we will see some examples of specific environmental bioindicators to learn more about them.

Examples of environmental bioindicators

Have you ever wondered why ferns are used as bioindicators or why lichens are used as bioindicators of air pollution? Both plant organisms are considered one of the bioindicator organisms par excellence, whose presence in an ecosystem determines that its atmospheric quality is good, since, otherwise, lichens and ferns could not survive there. If you want to know more examples of bioindicators apart from lichens and ferns, in the following list you will find both terrestrial, aquatic and aerial organisms that are commonly considered as environmental bioindicators:

  • Bioindicator protozoa of contamination of water sources.
  • Bacteria that act as a bioindicator of coastal water quality.
  • Microorganisms, mites, fungi and worms as bioindicators of soil quality.
  • Benthic macroinvertebrates bioindicators of the environmental health of aquatic environments, both freshwater and marine.
  • Wild birds as bioindicators of the environmental health of the ecosystem in which they inhabit, since these animals occupy different trophic levels in ecosystems , have a wide distribution and are sensitive to atmospheric changes in the environment.
  • Geckos or dragons and gekos are very good indicators of air quality. These are especially sensitive to industrial gases, such as sulfur dioxide.
  • Bees as bioindicators of air or atmosphere quality. They are especially sensitive to the presence of pesticides and insecticides, such as neonicotinoids , in the air and the plants they feed on.
  • Amphibians and fish as bioindicators of the absence of heavy metals in the waters in which they inhabit.

How bioindicators are used to assess the quality of the environment

The different environmental bioindicators that we have been seeing throughout the article are used in environmental biomonitoring or biovigilance programs .

In these programs, ecologists and other specialists study the presence or absence of certain living organisms that meet the characteristics of bioindicators, thus being able to determine if the ecosystem in which they inhabit is in good environmental health or if, on the contrary, it has some type of source of contamination that prevents the survival and growth of said living organisms considered bioindicators.

For example, if the environmental quality and state of conservation of a forest that has a certain level of humidity in which lichens exist is studied, these organisms indicate that in said forest, the air quality is good enough, clean and purified as for living organisms to grow and inhabit that terrestrial ecosystem . This same example can be compared with the existence of fish and amphibians in aquatic ecosystems, as well as with the presence of birds in aerial ecosystems.

If you want to learn more about what air quality looks like, here we talk in detail about what air quality is and how it is measured .

What is the importance of bioindicators

After knowing what environmental bioindicators consist of and how they are applied in biomonitoring programs, it is logical to think that these tools are very important in environmental studies .

Thanks to their prompt response to various pollutants , bioindicators allow experts to warn of possible environmental risks related to some type of contamination, as well as to act against said pollutants once the response of the bioindicator has been discovered. We recommend you read this other article about What is an environmental risk and examples .

Undoubtedly, it is one of the most effective methods and in harmony with the ecological rhythms of nature that allows us humans to better understand environmental factors and act against their contamination.

If you want to read more articles similar to Bioindicators: what are they, types and examples , we recommend that you enter our category of Other environment .

Maria Anderson

Hello, I am a blogger specialized in environmental, health and scientific dissemination issues in general. The best way to define myself as a blogger is by reading my texts, so I encourage you to do so. Above all, if you are interested in staying up to date and reflecting on these issues, both on a practical and informative level.

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