Regulatory drivers have guided the Biological Monitoring and Abatement Programs, but there are number of additional benefits to industry and others for having a robust biological monitoring program. BMAP data have been used for site characterization, performance assessment, human and ecological risk assessment, pollution prevention, decision-making guidance, source identification or cause of impact, and general scientific understanding. Key to the effectiveness of BMAP is early standardization of sampling locations, frequencies, and methods. Locations identified as critical for continued biomonitoring are major source areas and watershed or sub-watershed exit points. Once sampling protocols are in place, continued long-term monitoring ensures that this valuable information provides a variety of benefits. The benefits of a biological monitoring program are also different than those of a water chemistry program:

Water Chemistry Measurements

Biological Measurements

  • Provide data on specific concentrations of dissolved and particulate materials over time and space

  • Provide data on cumulative biological/ecological responses to environmental conditions over time and space

  • Data are intermittent/non-continuous (grab samples) or are flow-weighted and pooled

  • Data are cumulative and integrative; organisms are continuously exposed to all substances in water or sediments and integrate the effects of this exposure.

  • Data reflect shorter temporal scales and near-field effects; measurements can quickly detect changes in chemical conditions; well-suited for reflecting rapid changes resulting from specific events or remedial actions

  • Data reflect longer temporal scales and far-field effects; data are well suited for reflecting watershed-scale, cumulative ecosystem responses

  • Data applicable to human health and ecological risk estimates via models/extrapolation

  • Data reflect actual exposure to and biological activity of contaminants; i.e., data reflect actual responses rather than theoretical (often worst case) impacts extrapolated from chemical data

  • Cannot detect biologically significant concentrations of some important contaminants (e.g., PCBs)

  • Can detect biologically significant concentrations of some contaminants (e.g., PCBs)

  • Yield numerous data points (depending on number of analytes) per sample, relatively inexpensive per data point, but have low information value per data point

  • Yield fewer data points per sample, relatively laborious and expensive per data point, but data are highly integrative, so there is high information value per data point

  • Data are affected by flow variations (storms, seasonal, wet vs dry years, etc.)

  • Data are affected by flow and other environmental factors (temperature, habitat) over time, but they are normalized by long-term data records and monitoring of reference sites

  • Can provide an endpoint; e.g., when all chemical and water quality parameters comply with environmental standards

  • Can provide an end-point; e.g., when the biological community is equivalent to reference sites

Note: Appreciation is extended to Bruce Kimmel for his ideas and contributions to this table.

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Last Modified: April 17, 2001