Biomagnification Processes, Causes, Effects and Prevention


Don’t use products which contain heavy metals like Lead, Mercury and Arsenic because they are destroying the whole ecosystem.

The issues like biomagnification are not new but we need to address these kinds of issues properly by imposing restrictions on the products which are not good for our environment. I mean, we don’t want the whole living organisms to be wiped out from the earth, right?

We should take actions on this then.

Speaking of…

We will be discussing the term Biomagnification, which also has some other names like Bioamplification and Biological Magnification, in this blog post.

So, here we go…

Recommended Read: 4 Ultimate Active Recall Strategies for Students

What is Biomagnification?

The encyclopedia defines this as, “Tendency of organisms to accumulate certain chemicals to a concentration larger than that occurring in their inorganic, nonliving environment, such as soil or water, or in the case of animals, larger than in their food.

Basically, biomagnification is the process of increment of concentration of a substance in the tissues of organisms present at a higher level in a food chain.

It is a kind of cumulative increase in the concentrations of a persistent substance like pesticides, heavy metals, etc. as they move higher in the food chain.

Process of the Biomagnification

Generally, biological magnification is the process in which certain substances such as pesticides or heavy metals make their way into lakes, rivers, and the ocean and slowly move upward of the food chain in progressively greater concentration.

For example: when pesticides or heavy metal go the ocean, they get incorporated into the diet of the small ocean organisms. These small organisms are often eaten by fish which might be eaten by bigger fish, birds, animals, or humans. And, the concentration of these substances keeps increasing as they move up the chain.

Process of Biomagnification

The biomagnification process is the process following which persistent substances rise up in the chain.

Here’s how:

  1. Toxic chemicals and pollutants get mixed up in the environment
  2. Chemicals and pollutants are consumed by the small plants called Phytoplankton
  3. These small plants are consumed by small marine animals called Zooplankton
  4. Zooplankton are then consumed by small fish
  5. Bigger fish consume smaller fish
  6. The top organisms of the food chain then consume fish

This way they reach up to the top of the food chain.

The process of biological magnification can be understood better with the help of the below infographic.

Biomagnification Process - Infographic

Causes of Biomagnification

The toxic elements and pollutants get mixed up in the environment and then biomagnify themselves. Following are the reasons for the biomagnification:

1. Agriculture

Pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers used in agriculture are one of the main reasons because they happen to be highly toxic. Through the surface stormwater runoff, they find their way to the lakes and rivers.

2. Ocean Mining

In order to extract minerals and ores by deep mining into the sea generates Sulfide and Selenium like deposits in the water which are dangerous and biologically amplify themselves.

3. Industrial Manufacturing

The big industries and manufacturing units generate hundreds of thousands of tonnes of waste materials which contains many poisonous substances and pollutants which are also one of the reasons.

4. Processed Foods

Processed foods contain elements like Nitrogen, Carbon, Phosphorus, etc. which due to contamination may cause harm to the animals and even humans.

5. Plastic Pollution

At most of the places, plastic waste is disposed near the water bodies. Plastic wastes contain a harmful chemical called “Bisphenol A” which is one of the major contaminants released into the water.

Effects of Biomagnification

There are a lot of negative effects of the biological magnification and some of the considerable ones are:

1. Health Issues in Humans

A number of health issues arise as the prolonged effect of biomagnification. Humans become more likely to develop major diseases like cancer, kidney diseases, heart diseases, or even birth defects.

2. Sea Creatures

The reproductive system of aquatic animals gets negatively affected due to substances like Selenium, Mercury, and PCBs (Polychlorinated Biphenyls).

3. Destruction of Underwater Ecosystem

Underwater ecosystem or Coral Reefs get destroyed by the substance like Cyanide which is generally used in leaching gold and also in fishing.

And, these reefs are one of the main sources of food for numerous sea creatures.

4. Food Chain Disruption

Most of the sea creatures depend on the natural food chain for survival but when poisons get mixed into the oceans, the natural food chain system gets disrupted. Because we all know that if certain kinds of organisms are removed from the food chain system then the whole system might get collapsed.

Toxic Buildup in the Food Chain

How to Prevent or Reduce Biomagnification?

It’s not like that it can’t be reduced or prevented. There are a few ways which can be beneficial in minimizing the biomagnification.

Some of the ways are:

1. By Preventing the Use of Some of the Heavy Metals

Almost all the industrially created products (e.g. Petroleum) contain some kinds of heavy metals like Lead Arsenic and Mercury which usage can be regulated in order to reduce the biological magnification.

2. By Restricting the Use of Some Harmful Products

The use of home products like PVC plumbing materials, lead paints, CCA and ACZA treated wood, and other products containing heavy metals like Mercury and Arsenic should be restricted.

What are Some Substances that Magnify?

Some of the harmful substances that magnify themselves biologically are:

  1. DDT – Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, or Dichloro Diphenyl Trichloroethane)
  2. HCB – Hexachlorobenzene
  3. PCBs – Polychlorinated Biphenyls
  4. Toxaphene
  5. Monomethyl Mercury

Wrapping it Up

Since the evolution of mankind, humans have not at all cared about nature and they did what they wanted. If this keeps going on then the food chain system might break up and the whole ecosystem might get in danger.

We need to take quick actions on preventing biomagnification or biological magnification and other nature-harming processes in order to prevent the ecosystem from a big crash.

That’s it.

Let me know your opinions by dropping a quick comment right now.

One Comment

  1. Ikechukwu K.M.Okorie says:

    Excellent writing: apt and wonderful humour in tackling such a serious problem.
    Very well done!

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