Aquatic zooremediation: deploying animals to remediate contaminated aquatic environments

Scott Gifford*, R. Hugh Dunstan, Wayne O'Connor, Claudia E. Koller, Geoff R. MacFarlane

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

93 Citations (Scopus)


The ability of animals to act in a bioremediative capacity is not widely known. Animals are rarely considered for bioremediation initiatives owing to ethical or human health concerns. Nonetheless, specific examples in the literature reveal that some animal species are effective remediators of heavy metals, microbial contaminants, hydrocarbons, nutrients and persistent organic pollutants, particularly in an aquatic environment. Recent examples include deploying pearl oysters to remove metals and nutrients from aquatic ecosystems and the harvest of fish to remove polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) from the Baltic. It is probable that many animal taxa will possess attributes amenable to bioremediation. We introduce zoological equivalents of the definitions used in phytoremediation literature (zooextraction, zootransformation, zoostabilization and animal hyperaccumulation), to serve as useful benchmarks in the evaluation of candidate animal species for zooremediation initiatives, and propose that recognition of the concept of zooremediation would act to stimulate discussion and future research in this area.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)60-65
Number of pages6
JournalTrends in Biotechnology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2007
Externally publishedYes


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