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HISTORY OF BIOMONITORING IN THE UNITED STATES - EXTENDED ABSTRACT
FAIRBROTHER, A. HISTORY OF BIOMONITORING IN THE UNITED STATES - EXTENDED ABSTRACT. Presented at The 14th International Conference on Environmental Bioindicators & the 2nd Annual Meeting of the International Society for Environmental Bioindicataors, Linthicum Heights, MD, April 24 - 26, 2006.
Biomonitoring of ecological systems has a long history dating back several centuries when high levels of industrial and urban pollution caused discolored rivers, noxious smells, fish kills, and other obvious indicators of ecosystem dysfunction. As a result, significant environmental legislation was put into place in the U.S. during the 1970¿s and 1980¿s to regulate air and water discharges, clean up contaminated lands, and control pesticide use. People remain concerned about whether environmental degradation will result in lost services, species or ecosystem extinctions, or direct effects to human health. They also want to know if environmental laws and regulations are achieving their goals. Initial indicators consisted of physical/chemical water quality attributes as well as discharge limits, with attempts at developing statistical relationships with biological conditions. In the mid 1980¿s, concerns about ecosystem integrity and sustainability lead to the first formal biological indicator, the Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI). The IBI has since been expanded and is now widely accepted as an indicator of structural integrity. Terrestrial indicators have focused on biodiversity metrics plus monitoring of specific groups (birds, bats, ants) and soil parameters. Landscape metrics are under development. Trees, lichens, and mosses serve as air pollution bioindicators. Examples of use of bioindicators are the EPA¿s Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program (EMAP), The Heinz Center and EPA¿s State of the Environment Reports, USGS National Water Quality Assessment (NAWQA), USFS Forest Health program, NOAA¿s Mussel Watch, and others. Diagnosis of cause of degradation is a common need towards which biomarker development has been directed. Early biomarkers were enzyme activity measurements which then expanded to multiple cellular and receptor binding assays and have now moved into the area of genomics. It is likely that suites of biomarkers will provide more useful information than single ones used alone. There remains a strong desire to identify early warning indicators and diagnostic measures of environmental