Bioaccumulation

Meaning, Term, and Glossary Definition - What is Bioaccumulation?

Bioaccumulation is a general term for the accumulation of substances, such as pesticides (DDT is an example), methylmercury, or other organic chemicals in an organism or part of an organism. The accumulation process involves the biological sequestering of substances that enter the organism through respiration, food intake, epidermal (skin) contact with the substance, and/or other means. The sequestering results in the organism having a higher concentration of the substance than the concentration in the organism's surrounding environment.

When mercury falls in rain or snow, it may flow into bodies of water like lakes and streams. When it falls out of the air as dry deposition, it may eventually be washed into those bodies by rain. Bacteria in soils and sediments convert mercury to methylmercury. In this form, it is taken up by tiny aquatic plants and animals. Fish that eat these organisms build up methylmercury in their bodies. As ever-bigger fish eat smaller ones, the methylmercury is concentrated further up the food chain. This process is called "bioaccumulation".

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Bioaccumulation

Bioaccumulation: Example of bioaccumulation with mercury

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