Environmental Monitoring and Assessment

, Volume 55, Issue 3, pp 459–470 | Cite as

An Evaluation of Bivalves as Biomonitors of Heavy Metals Pollution in Marine Waters

  • Dean W. Boening


Heavy metals (namely Cr, Cu, Zn, As, Hg, Pb, Ni, and Ag) that are present at concentrations common in ambient marine waters can cause adverse effects in shellfish. Such effects can significantly impact the trophic structure of a biological community. Heavy metals uptake is dependent on both geochemical and biological factors. In bivalves, the extent of accumulation is a function of several biotic and abiotic variables. Based on several criteria, (including: an ability to accumulate metals without suffering mortality, habitation within, and continuous exposure to, the contaminated matrix, hardiness, and ease of sampling) bivalve molluscs have proven to be useful biomonitors for a host of inorganic contaminants. It is essential that the biomonitoring plan is not only site specific, but that it considers the use of indigenous species whenever possible. This paper will provide a general review of studies that have employed bivalved shellfish as sentinel bioindicators in marine environments impacted by heavy metals, and give suggestions for conducting biomonitoring assays.

bioaccumulation biomonotoring bioavailability bivalves bioindicator 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. APHA.: 1995, Standard methods for the examination of water and wastewater, 19th eds American Public Health Association, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  2. Audubon.: 1990, Pacific Coast Nature Guide, Alfred A. Knopf, New York. Government Reports Announcements and Index (GRAandI).Google Scholar
  3. Ayling, G. M.: 1974, 'Uptake of cadmium, lead, zinc, copper, and chromium in the Pacific Oyster', Water Res. 8, 729–739.Google Scholar
  4. Beliaff, B., O'Conner, T. P., Daskalakis, D. K. and Smith, P. J.: 'U.S. mussel watch data from 1986 to 1994: Temporal trend detection at large spatial scales', Environ. Sci. Technol. 31, 1411-1415.Google Scholar
  5. becker, D. S., Bilyard, G. R. and Ginn, T. C.: 1990, 'Comparisons between sediment bioassays and alterations of benthic macroinvertebrate assemblages at a marine Superfund site: Commencement Bay, Washington', Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 9, 669–685.Google Scholar
  6. Borden, G., McCourt, J. and Rodriguez, J.: 1992, 'Trace metals in the marine bivavle Macoma balthica in the Westerschelde Estuary. Part I: Analysis of copper, cadmium, zinc and iron concentrations-local and seasonal variations', Sci. Total Environ. 127, 255–280.Google Scholar
  7. Boyden, C. R.: 1974, 'Trace element content and body size in molluscs', Nature 251, 311–314.Google Scholar
  8. Chassard, Brouchaud-Colette, Boutin, J. F., Hallegot, P. and Galle, P.: 1989, 'Chromium uptake, distribution and loss in the mussel Mytilus edulis: a structural, ultrastructural and microanalytical study', Dise. Aquatic Organism 7, 117–136.Google Scholar
  9. Chaisse, D.: 1989, 'Chemical contamination of French coasts, Mar. Pollut. Bull. 20, 523–528.Google Scholar
  10. Collie, J. S., Escanero, G. A. and Valentine, P. C.: 1997, 'Effects of bottom fishing on the benthic megafauna of Georges Bank', Marine Ecology Press Series 155, 159–172.Google Scholar
  11. Daskalakis, K. D.: 1996, 'Variability of metal concentrations in oyster tissue and implications to biomonitoring', Mar. Pollut. Bull. 32, 794–801.Google Scholar
  12. Davies-Colley, R. J., Nelson, P. O. and Williamson, K. J.: 1982, 'Estuarine Sediment Controls on Trace Metal Distributions', Water Resources Research Institute, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon.Google Scholar
  13. Eisler, R., Zaroogian, G. E. and Hennekey, R. H.: 1972, 'Cadmium uptake by marine organisms', J. Fisheries Resources Board Canada 29, 1367–1369.Google Scholar
  14. Eisler, R.: 1981, Trace Metal Concentrations in Marine Organisms, New York, Pergamon Press.Google Scholar
  15. Elder, J. F. and Collins, J. J.: 1991, 'Freshwater molluscs as indicators of bioavailability and toxicity of metals in surface-water systems, Rev. Environ. Contamina. Toxicol. 122, 36–79.Google Scholar
  16. EPA.: 1976, Chemical and Biological Survey of Liberty Bay, Washington, EPA-910/9.76-029.Google Scholar
  17. EPA.: 1978, Metal Bioaccumulation in Fishes and Aquatic Invertebrates, EPA-600/3-78-103.Google Scholar
  18. EPA.: 1989, Biomonitoring for Control of Toxicity in Effluent Discharges to the Marine Environment, EPA/625/8-89/015.Google Scholar
  19. EPA.: 1993, A Riview of Ecological Assessment Case Studies from a Risk Assessment Perspective, EPA/630/R-92/005.Google Scholar
  20. Genest, P. E. and Hatch, W. I.: 1981, 'Heavy metals in Mercenaria and sediments form the New Bedford harbor region of Buzzard's Bay, Massachusetts', Bull. Environ. Contamin. Toxicol. 26, 124–30.Google Scholar
  21. Gibb, J., Allen, J. R. and Hawkins, S. J.: 1996, 'The application of biomonitors for the assessment of mine-derived pollution on the West Coast of the Isle of man', Mar. Pollut. Bull. 32, 513–519.Google Scholar
  22. Jackim, E., Morrison, G. and Steele, R.: 1977, 'Effects of environmental factors on radio-cadmium uptake by four species of marine bivalves', Marine Biol. 40, 303–308.Google Scholar
  23. Johansen, P., Hansen, M. M., Nielson, G. A. and Nielsen, P. B.: 1991, 'Marine organisms as indicators of heavy metal pollution - experience from 16 years of monitoring at a lead zinc mine in Greenland', Chem. Ecol. 5, 35–55.Google Scholar
  24. Julshamn, K. and Grahl-Nielsen, O.: 1996, 'Distribution of trace elements from industrial discharges in the Hardangerfjord, Norway: A multivariate data analysis of Saithe, Flounder and Blue Mussel as sentinel organisms', Mar. Pollut. Bull. 32, 564–571.Google Scholar
  25. Luoma, S. A. and Jenne, E. A.: 1976, 'The availability of sediment bound cobalt, silver, and zinc to a deposit-feeding clam', in: Proceedings of the Symposium for Biological Implications of Metals in the Environment, Sept. 29 to Oct. 1, Hanford, Washington, pp. 1–31.Google Scholar
  26. Luoma, Samuel, N., Dagovitz, Rachel, and Axtmann, Ellen.: 1990, 'Temporally intensive study of trace metals in sediments and bivalves from a large river-estuarine system: Suisun Bay/delta in San Fransisco Bay', Sci. Total Environ. 97-98, 685–712.Google Scholar
  27. Martoja, M., Ballan-Dufrancais, C., Jeantet, A. Y., Truchet, M. and Coulon, J.: 1988, 'Influence of the chemical composition of the environment on the bivalve animals contaminated experimentally by an industrial effluent', Annales de L'Institut Oceanographique 64, 1–24.Google Scholar
  28. Mathew, P. and Menon, N. R.: 1992, 'Toxic responses of bivalves to metal mixtures', Bull. Environ. Contamin. Toxicol. 48, 185–93.Google Scholar
  29. McKinney, J. D. and Rogersm R.: 1992, 'Metal bioavailability', Environ. Sci. Technol. 26(7), 1298–1299.Google Scholar
  30. Mersch, J., Wagner, P. and Pihan, J. V.: 1996, 'Copper in indigenous and transplanted zebra mussels in relation to changing water concentrations and body weight', Environ. Toxicol. Chemis. 15, 886–893.Google Scholar
  31. Morton, B.: 1996, 'The subsidiary impacts of dredging (and trawling) on a subtital benthic molluscan community in the Southern Waters of Hong Kong', Mar. Pollut. Bull. 32, 710–709.Google Scholar
  32. Nelson, D. A., Miller, J.E. and Calabrese, A.: 1988, 'Effects of heavy metals on bay scallops, surf clams, and blue mussels in acute and long-term exposures', Archi. Environ. Contamin. Toxicol. 17, 595–600.Google Scholar
  33. Newman, M. C. and McIntosh, A. W.: 1982, 'Influence of lead in components of a fresh water ecosystem on molluscan tissue lead concentrations', Aquatic Toxicol. 2, 25–29.Google Scholar
  34. NOAA: 1993, 'Sampling and analytical methods of the National Status and Trends Program National Benthic Surveillance and MusselWatch Projects 1984-1992, NOAA Technical Memorndum NOS ORCA 71 (vol I).Google Scholar
  35. Paez-Osuna, F., Osuna-K'opaz, J. I., Izaguirre-Fierro, G. and Zazuetta-Padilla, H, M.: 1993, 'Heavy metals in clams from a subtropical coastal lagoon associated with an agricultural drainage basin', Bull. Environ. Contamin. Toxicol. 50, 915–921.Google Scholar
  36. Peterson, R. C. J.: 1986, 'Population and guild analysis for interpretation of heavy metal pollution in streams', in: Cairns, J. Jr. (ed.) Community Toxicity Testing, American Society for Testing and Materials, Philadelphia, Spec Tech Publ. 920, pp. 180–198.Google Scholar
  37. Phelps, D. K. and Galloway, W. B.: 1980, 'A report on the coastal environmental assessment stations (CEAS) program', in: Proceedings of the International Council for Ocean Exploration, 179, 76–81.Google Scholar
  38. Phillips, D. J. H. and Seger, D. A.: 1986, 'Use of bio-indicators in monitoring conservative contaminants: programme design imperatives', mar. Pollut. Bull. 17, 10–17.Google Scholar
  39. Phillips, P. T.: 1988, 'California State Mussel Watch Ten Year Data Summary 1977-1987', Water Quality Monitoring report No. 87-3.Google Scholar
  40. Phillips, P. T. and Rainbow, P. S.: 1993, Biomonitoring of Trace Aquatic Contaminants, Elsevier Science, London.Google Scholar
  41. Ray, S.: 1986, 'Bioaccumulation of cadmium in marine organisms', Experientia Supplementum 50,65–75.Google Scholar
  42. Rainbow, P. S. and Phillips, D. J. H.: 1993, 'Cosmopolitan biomonitors of trace metals', Mar. Pollut. Bull. 26, 593–601.Google Scholar
  43. Ricketts, E. F. and Calvin, J.: 1962, Between Pacific Tides, 3rd ed. Stanford University Press, Stanford, california.Google Scholar
  44. Riget, F., Johansen, P. and Asmund, G.: 1996, 'Influence of length on element concentrations in blue mussels (Mytilus edulis)', Mar. Pollut. Bull. 32, 745–751.Google Scholar
  45. Robinson, W. E. and Ryan, D. K.: 1986, 'Metal interactions within the kidney, gill and digestive gland of the hard clam, Mercenari mercenaria, following laboratory exposure to cadmium', Arch. Environ. Contamin. Toxicol. 15, 23–30.Google Scholar
  46. Salazar, M. H. and Salazar, S.M.: 1994a, 'In situ bioassays with caged bivalves to estimate exposure and bioeffects in a comphrehensive monitoring program', in: Proceeding of the 15th Annual Meeting of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC), Denver, CO, 1994.Google Scholar
  47. Salazar, S. M. and Salazar, M. H.: 1994b, 'Bivalve transplant studies: Manipulative experiments and deployment methods for evaluating exposure and bioeffects', in: Proceedings of the 15th Annual Meeting of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC), Denver, CO, 1994.Google Scholar
  48. Saiz-Salinas, J. I., Ruiz, J. M. and Frances-Zubillaga, G.: 1996, 'Heavy metal levels in intertidal sediments and biota from the Bidasoa Estuary', Mar. Pollut. Bull. 32, 69–71.Google Scholar
  49. Snedecor, G.W. and Cochran, W. G. (eds.): 1989, Statistical Methods, 19th ed., Iowa State University Press, 10.Google Scholar
  50. Spacie, A., McCarty, S. and Rand, G. M.: 1995, 'Bioaccumulation and bioavailability in multiphase systems', in: Rand, G. M. (ed.), Fundamentals of Aquatic Toxicology (2 nd ed.), Taylor and Francis, Washington, DC, pp. 494–521.Google Scholar
  51. Specht, D. T, and Lee, H.: 1989, 'Direct measurement technique for determining ventilation rate in the deposit-feeding clam Macoma nasuta, Marine Biol. 101, 211–218.Google Scholar
  52. Talbot, V. and Magee, R. J.: 1978, 'Naturally occurring heavy metal binding proteins in invertebrates', Arch. Environ. Contamin. Toxicol. 7, 73–81.Google Scholar
  53. Thomas, N. A.: 1975, Accumulation and Transport of Energy Related Pollutants by benthos, 2nd ICMSE conference, March 25-27, 12 p.Google Scholar
  54. Trocine, R. P. and Trefry, J. H.: 1996, 'Metal concentrations in sediment, water and clams from the Indian River Lagoon, Florida', Mar. Pollut. Bull. 32, 754–759.Google Scholar
  55. Usero, J., Gonzalez-Regalado, E. and Gracia, I.: 1996, 'Trace metals in the bivalve mollusc Chamelea gallina from the Atlantic Coast of Southern Spain', Mar. Pollut. Bull. 32, 305–310.Google Scholar
  56. Zorba, M. A. Jacob, P. G., al-Bloushi, A. and al-Nafisi, R.: 1992, 'Clams as pollution bioindicators and depuration', Sci. Total Environ. 120, 195–204.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dean W. Boening
    • 1
  1. 1.Lockheed Martin Environmental Services Assistance TeamPort OrchardU.S.A. E-mail

Personalised recommendations