Washington, April 27 : Researchers have explained how living organisms like plants can be used to track the dispersal of atmospheric pollutants, particulates, and trace elements.
Borut Smodis of the Jozef Stefan Institute, in Ljubljana, Slovenia, has provided an editorial, explaining how biomonitoring can be used in environments where a technological approach to monitoring is not only difficult and costly, but may be impossible.
"Biomonitoring allows continuous observation of an area with the help of bioindicators, an organism that reveals the presence of a substance in its surroundings with observable and measurable changes, such as accumulation of pollutants, which can be distinguished from the effects of natural stress," he said.
According to Smodis, there are numerous other advantages of biomonitoring.
Simple and inexpensive sampling procedures allow a very large number of sites to be included in the same survey, permitting detailed geographical patterns to be drawn, he said.
"Biomonitoring can be an effective tool for pollutant mapping and trend monitoring in real time and retrospective analysis," he added.
While any organism might be used as a biomonitoring agent, Smodis points out that mosses and lichens, which lack root systems, are dependent on surface absorption of nutrients, so reflect materials absorbed from the atmosphere rather than the soil.
Though biomonitoring techniques are improving rapidly and researchers are quickly validating results at the local level, Smodis points out that there is no single species that could be used on the global scale.