What The Heck Is Biomagnification and Bioaccumulation?! – The Greater Goods Collective

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What The Heck Is Biomagnification and Bioaccumulation?!

So you've heard that microplastics and pesticides are bad, but why? Why care about these small microns of pollutants that we can't even see?


The simple answer is Biomagnification and Bioaccumulation.
 
I'm aware a lot of you haven't heard of this before, but hopefully, after reading this you will have a clearer understanding.
 
What is Biomagnification?
 
Defined as the process by which a compound (such as a pollutant or pesticide) increases its concentration in the tissues of organisms as it travels up the food chain (Merriam-Webster.com).
 
Essentially, when small organisms such as krill eat their regular diet of microorganisms, they are unknowingly ingesting microplastics and other pollutants. These krill are then consumed by bigger fish and these bigger fish are then consumed by larger fish, and so on. Each time bioaccumulating these harmful and toxic chemicals within their tissues which increase in concentration as they are consumed within the trophic levels (different levels of the food chain). 
 
What is Bioaccumualtion?
 
Bioaccumulation is the gradual accumulation of substances, such as pesticides or other chemicals, within an organism
(Alexander, 1999). Bioaccumulation occurs when an organism absorbs a substance at a rate faster than that at which the substance is lost or eliminated by catabolism and excretion.

 
 
Here is a VERY basic graphic of how Bioaccumulation and Biomagnification work with the food chain. 



Image Source: Blue-growth.org


How can I help?
 

  • Avoid putting harmful chemicals and substances such as oil into the drains and water systems
  • When you see plastic in the environment, pick it up to avoid it turning into microplastics
  • Shop organic which will help build demand for pesticide-free agricultural practices
  • Avoid using plastics from the start, choose sustainably, and say no to single-use plastics

 

 

If you loved learning about this, let me know in the comments below! 

 

 

 


References:
Alexander (1999). "Bioaccumulation, bioconcentration, biomagnification". Environmental Geology. Encyclopedia of Earth Science. pp. 43–44. doi:10.1007/1-4020-4494-1_31ISBN 978-0-412-74050-3

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