SYMPOSIA PAPER Published: 01 January 1993

A Review of Terrestrial Plants as Biomonitors


Terrestrial plants have been used as monitors of environmental pollutants since at least the beginning of this century. They have recently received increased attention in response to the need for ecological assessments at hazardous waste sites and for monitoring pesticide damage to nontarget plants. Terrestrial plants are potential candidates for biomonitoring because they are continuously exposed to the air and have lipophilic cuticles. The dissemination of heavy metal and sulfur dioxide into the environment from smelters has been effectively monitored through the use of several different sensitive plant species including lichens and mosses. Visible foliar injury on Bell W-3 tobacco was developed as an indicator of ozone pollution. The Tradescantia stamen hair system has been successfully used for a number of years as a monitor for chemical mutagenesis for air and water systems. However, plants have rarely been used as an indicator for chronic exposure to organic chemical pollutants. A test using Arabidopsis was developed for chronic root exposure to both metal and organic toxicants. A chronic shoot exposure test using a short life cycle Brassica was developed for monitoring aerial deposition of spray, fog, and gases. These tests are amenable for use under natural settings but have not been implemented in the field. Preliminary work has begun on using terrestrial plants as biomonitors in detecting nontarget foliar injury from sulfonylurea herbicides.

Author Information

Pfleeger, TG
US EPA, Corvallis Environmental Research Laboratory, Corvallis, OR
Ratsch, HC
US EPA, Corvallis Environmental Research Laboratory, Corvallis, OR
Shimabuku, RA
US EPA, Corvallis Environmental Research Laboratory, Corvallis, OR
Price: $25.00
Contact Sales
Reprints and Permissions
Reprints and copyright permissions can be requested through the
Copyright Clearance Center
Developed by Committee: E47
Pages: 317–330
DOI: 10.1520/STP13164S
ISBN-EB: 978-0-8031-5257-1
ISBN-13: 978-0-8031-1485-2