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Spiders play large role as sentinels of contaminants in aquatic, riparian ecosystems

Spiders that live near water may be an effective warning system for contaminants in aquatic ecosystems, according to a new USGS and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency study.

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PCB Contamination in Aquatic Habitat

Scientists examined PCB (polychlorinated biphenyls) levels in shoreline-living spiders at Lake Hartwell, a Superfund site in South Carolina, and used this information to map contaminant concentrations in lake sediment.

Future monitoring studies will use the spiders as indicators of ecosystem recovery from PCB contamination.

Researchers also made risk maps for a spider-eating bird, the Carolina wren, which could be exposed to PCBs through eating spiders. These spiders rely heavily on adult aquatic insects for food and play a key ecological role in the transfer of contaminants between water and land ecosystems. In spite of this, they are underused as a sentinel species at contaminated sediment sites.

This study, "Using riparian spiders as sentinels of PCB export and risk" was conducted by USGS at the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry and the EPA.  


Edited by Carolyn Allen, Managing Editor of Solutions For Green

Publication Date: 11/24/2009
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