Why is metal bioaccumulation so variable? Biodynamics as a unifying concept

  • Luoma S
  • Rainbow P
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Ecological risks from metal contaminants are difficult to document because responses differ among species, threats differ among metals, and environmental influences are complex. Unifying concepts are needed to better tie together such complexities. Here we suggest that a biologically based conceptualization, the biodynamic model, provides the necessary unification for a key aspect in risk: metal bioaccumulation (internal exposure). The model is mechanistically based, but empirically considers geochemical influences, biological differences, and differences among metals. Forecasts from the model agree closely with observations from nature, validating its basic assumptions. The biodynamic metal bioaccumulation model combines targeted, high-quality geochemical analyses from a site of interest with parametrization of key physiological constants for a species from that site. The physiological parameters include metal influx rates from water, influx rates from food, rate constants of loss, and growth rates (when high). We compiled results from 15 publications that forecast species-specific bioaccumulation, and compare the forecasts to bioaccumulation data from the field. These data consider concentrations that cover 7 orders of magnitude. They include 7 metals and 14 species of animals from 3 phyla and 11 marine, estuarine, and freshwater environments. The coefficient of determination (RI) between forecasts and independently observed bioaccumulation from the field was 0.98. Most forecasts agreed with observations within 2-fold. The agreement suggests that the basic assumptions of the biodynamic model are tenable. A unified explanation of metal bioaccumulation sets the stage for a realistic understanding of toxicity and ecological effects of metals in nature

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