Chapter 7: Marine Mammals as Indicators of Environmental Pollution and Potential Health Effects
Published:24 Jun 2022
J. W. Desforges, U. Siebert, H. Routti, M. Levin, R. Dietz, N. Basu, ... C. Sonne, in Marsupial and Placental Mammal Species in Environmental Risk Assessment Strategies, ed. M. L. Larramendy and G. Liwszyc, The Royal Society of Chemistry, 2022, ch. 7, pp. 133-169.
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The study and protection of environmental and human health is complex given the variety of anthropogenic and natural stressors threatening the well-being of exposed organisms. Researchers have turned to wild animals as sentinel species to study the critical questions relating to environmental chemical contamination and potential adverse health effects of contaminant exposure. Marine mammals are one group of animals that are particularly suited as indicators of environmental health because of their long lifespan, high trophic level, spatial distribution at various scales, and propensity to accumulate and respond to environmental contaminants. This chapter discusses how marine mammals are used to monitor and identify chemical pollutants of concern and determine potential health effects on practically all vertebrate physiological systems and across biological scales, from the molecular to the population level. We highlight the diversity of study designs, pollutant classes, methodological tools, and unique insights gained on source, transport, fate, and health effects of contaminants from studies of marine mammal toxicology to showcase the usefulness of these sentinel species as indicators in ecotoxicology.