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Biological responses to contaminants in the Humber Estuary: disentangling complex relationships

García-Alonso, J.; Greenway, G.M.; Munshi, A.; Gómez, J.C.; Mazik, Krysia; Knight, A.W.; Hardege, J.D.; Elliott, M.


J. García-Alonso

G.M. Greenway

A. Munshi

J.C. Gómez

A.W. Knight

J.D. Hardege

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Professor Mike Elliott
Emeritus Professor of Estuarine and Coastal Sciences/ Research Professor, Institute of Estuarine and Coastal Studies


Due to the ecological importance of estuaries, it is necessary to understand the biological effects that potentially toxic contaminants induce in bioindicator species. A key aspect is whether effects at lower levels of biological organisation transfer through the system to higher levels. In understanding such processes, characterising multivariate relationships between contaminants, sediment toxicities and detoxification processes are important. Worms (Hediste diversicolor) and sediments were collected along the Humber Estuary, England, and inorganic and organic contaminants were quantified. Sediment toxicities and glutathione-S-transferases (GSTs) activity in the ragworm were analysed. Concentrations of metals were highest near urban and industrial areas, whereas organic contaminants appeared at upstream locations. GST activity correlated with heavy metals. The genotoxicity, oestrogenicity, dioxin and dioxin-like activity were higher at upstream locations. Oestrogenicity correlated with alkylphenols and some organochlorines, whilst genotoxicity correlated with organochlorines and heavy metals. Despite this, higher level biological responses could not be predicted, indicating that homeostasis is operating.


García-Alonso, J., Greenway, G., Munshi, A., Gómez, J., Mazik, K., Knight, A., Hardege, J., & Elliott, M. (2011). Biological responses to contaminants in the Humber Estuary: disentangling complex relationships. Marine environmental research, 71(4), 295 - 303.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Feb 11, 2011
Online Publication Date Feb 23, 2011
Publication Date May 4, 2011
Deposit Date Apr 1, 2022
Journal Marine environmental research
Print ISSN 0141-1136
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 71
Issue 4
Pages 295 - 303
Keywords Trace metals ; Organic pollutants; GST; Sediment toxicity; Environmental homeostasis; Humber Estuary
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