Biomonitoring in wildlife


Since the 2001 release of the First National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, growing knowledge of and attention to measuring contaminants in human beings (biomonitoring) has arisen. Notwithstanding this focus on learning about—and managing—potential chemical substance exposures in human beings, there are vigorous, scientific biomonitoring investigations that focus on wildlife (also known as biosurveys). The term wildlife as used here includes plants as well as animals in the wild.


Generally, these wildlife biomonitoring studies or biosurveys involve regularly scheduled measurements of contaminants or biological changes (through the use of what are sometimes referred to as biomarkers) in individual organisms or in populations and communities. Their objective is to establish an understanding of the status of—and trends in—contaminant presence, concentration and effect in wildlife tissues. Establishing an understanding of status and trends can provide an indication of the condition (that is, the health) of wildlife as well as indication of the quality of ecological systems. Also, this information is instrumental in gauging the effects or impact of contaminants that are shown to be present, paving the way for determining whether there may be causal relationships between contaminant exposure and health outcomes in wildlife—and by extension in humans. At this stage, testing to disclose such health outcomes as toxicity or behavioural and developmental impairments (brought about by such phenomena as endocrine disruption) is important.

Value of Biosurveys

Significantly, biomonitoring is—and continues to be—of high value in discerning the effects of not only chemical substance stressors but such other wildlife stressors as landuse change, habitat destruction, and invasive species. The value of biosurveys in recognizing and managing emergent diseases (in particular those that can be transmitted from animals to humans) has been demonstrated in sentinal bird biomonitoring programs for West Nile Virus and Asian Bird Influenza—and rodent biosurveys for hantavirus—detection and control.

Further Reading



Draggan, S. (2006). Biomonitoring in wildlife. Retrieved from


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