Environmental Geology

1999 Edition

Bioaccumulation, bioconcentration, biomagnification

  • David E. Alexander
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/1-4020-4494-1_31

Bioconcentration is the intake and retention of a substance in an organism entirely by respiration from water in aquatic ecosystems or from air in terrestrial ones. Bioaccumulation is the intake of a chemical and its concentration in the organism by all possible means, including contact, respiration and ingestion. Biomagnification occurs when the chemical is passed up the food chain to higher trophic levels, such that in predators it exceeds the concentration to be expected where equilibrium prevails between an organism and its environment (Neely, 1980). Thus the fatty tissues of animals may accumulate residues of heavy metals or organic compounds. These are passed up the food chain (e.g., through fish, shellfish, or birds) and reach greater, possibly harmful, concentrations at high trophic levels among top predators such as eagles, polar bears, and, indeed, human beings.

The bioconcentration factor(BCF) refers to the chemical concentration of a substance in an organism's tissue,...

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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1999

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  • David E. Alexander

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