Biological indicators of contamination in Auckland's estuaries. An initial assessment

Jacquie Reed, Brett Lyons, Brett Thompson, Tim Bean
Auckland Council Research, Investigations and Monitoring Unit, RIMU
Publication date:

An ability to identify a specific contaminant or groups of contaminants that are potentially causing adverse effects in the aquatic environment could improve management practices nationally and internationally. The objectives of this initial study were:

  • to conduct a literature review of the potential of biomarkers for assessing the adverse effects of metals in estuarine and coastal environments;
  • to obtain quantitative data on biochemical changes and cellular damage in shellfish and fish sampled along a contaminant gradient that covered eight estuaries in the Auckland region, and
  • to provide recommendations on the possible incorporation of biological assessment tools in existing contaminant monitoring programmes.

The literature review explains how the application of biological effects tools can be used in regulatory environmental monitoring programmes and which tools are available to assess the biological effects of metal exposure in marine and estuarine sediments.

The biological effects tools identified were:

  • metallothionein (MT) induction;
  • -aminolevulinic acid dehydratase (ALA-D) induction;
  • lysosomal stability;
  • oxidative stress biomarkers;
  • DNA strand breaks and micronuclei (MN) assay.

Auckland Council technical report TR2011/003

Last updated: 2018-07-09