The tendency to abandon classical toxicity tests with single species due to their inability to provide data to reliably predict responses on ecosystem levels and public pressure to use alternative simple and inexpensive bioassays on cellular and subcellular levels favours the use of cell physiological parameters to identify ecotoxicological risks. With the definition of basic biological principles valid for all complexity levels of life, from cells to ecosystems, it seems possible to develop from them basic indicatory parameters for ecosystem functioning and to provide measures to monitor it. As an example, the possible use of algal toxicity tests for the qualitative and quantitative analysis of physiological key functions is given, which may lead to improvements in ecotoxicological risk assessment. © 1993 Elsevier Science Publishers B.V.
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