Every living organism on this planet requires chemicals to function correctly. However, Biomagnification definition suggests that when the accretion of some non-essential chemicals increases within living organisms, it can become harmful to them.

What is Biomagnification?

Biomagnification means gathering various unimportant and at times harmful substances by organisms at different levels of a food chain. It occurs when industrial, agricultural, and human wastes are dumped into the oceans via rivers, sewers, streams, etc. Most of this waste is toxic and dangerous and deposited on the sea bed. The bottom feeders of a food chain consume these and gradually it is carried to the top of that particular food chain.

Furthermore, the concentration of toxic materials increases with every step up on a food chain. Ultimately, it affects humans as they sit on top of most of the food chains. Human beings consume fishes which are higher on a food chain. Therefore, they are likely to carry a substantial amount of these toxic elements.

The containment information about biomagnification states that heavy metals such as mercury and arsenic are also involved. Additionally, pesticides like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) compounds and DDT are entering the human body via food that they consume. 

A Real Life Example of Biomagnification

A real life example of biomagnification is –

  • When a marsh is sprayed to control mosquitoes, it releases a trace amount of DDT. When mixed with water, it accumulates in the cell of various aquatic organisms.

  • Once feeders up the food chain such as clams and fishes eat these organisms, they consume that DDT. Moreover, the concentration of DDT is ten times greater compared to the previous stage.

  • This concentration of DDT moves up the food chain, from one tropic level to another. For instance, if a seagull consumes one such fish, it will accumulate more DDT. It can go up to 40 times or more compared to that fish. Therefore, it is about a 400-fold increase throughout this rather short food chain.

Another prominent biological magnification example is the presence of mercury in various predatory fishes. Fishes like swordfish, shark, tuna, orange roughy, king mackerel, etc. contain a higher level of toxic mercury than smaller fishes.

This level is so high that health experts ask pregnant women to avoid consuming these fishes. It can damage the nervous system of the baby.

[Image : Biomagnification Diagram Will be Uploaded Soon]

Causes of Biomagnification

  1. Products Used in Agriculture

Chemical used in the agriculture sector is highly toxic and plays a pivotal part in biomagnification. Examples of such chemicals are various pesticides, herbicides, fungicide, and different inorganic fertilisers. Ultimately these chemicals penetrate the soil and then are carried to rivers and ocean via surface runoff. As a result, they enhance the biomagnification definition of causing harm to an entire food chain.

  1. Industrial Activities

Toxic by-products released by various industries are a significant cause of biomagnification. Additionally, the gas emission by them pollutes the air and harms the ecosystem even further.

  1. Organic Containments

Organic substances like manures and bio-solids contain essential nutrients such as carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus. Plants primarily use these. However, the industrial use of these substances causes biomagnification.

  1. Mining

Mining produces by-products like copper, cobalt, zinc, lead and several other toxic chemicals. These substances are then deposited in soil and water resource and subsequently contaminate them. 

Effects of Biomagnification

  1. A significant effect of biological magnification is noted on human health. For instance, in recent years, a large number of individuals who have consumed seafood regularly have been diagnosed with cancer. The reason behind such a phenomenon is the presence of mercury.

  2. Other noted biomagnification effects are reproduction and development of all animals, destruction of coral reefs, and most significant disruption in the natural food chain and the ecosystem.

Biomagnification definition portrays the adverse effect of various harmful chemicals on the ecosystem. To learn more about it, or any other chapter of Biology, join the live online classes by using the app or website of Vedantu. Moreover, download our app to access other study materials of biology.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What is Biological Magnification?

Ans. Biological magnification is the process of gathering various non-essential and at times, dangerous substances by organisms at different levels of a food chain. Furthermore, it occurs when an organism of a food chain consumes any toxic substance.

2. Define Biomagnification

Ans. It is the course of accumulating various toxic and unimportant substances by various organisms within a food chain. Additionally, it starts from the bottom of the food chain and works its way up. Moreover, with every level, it becomes more harmful.

3. Explain Biomagnification.

Ans. Biomagnification is the method of accruing toxic elements by different organisms within a food chain. A prominent example of it is the presence of mercury within predatory fish. This level is so high that consuming these can cause cancer.