Biological indicators in marine and coastal waters: A statistical and modelling analysis of the MARS campaign

Eran Gefen, Lewi Stone, Michael Rosenfeld, Hein von Westernhagen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We perform a statistical analysis of ecological data collected in the MARS project from marine environments of the Red and Mediterranean Seas in Israel, and the North Sea in Germany. In the study of fish parasite data, we examine the basic premise that the complex host lifecycles of heteroxenous (h) parasites make them more sensitive to pollution than monoxenous (m) parasites which have only one host. Unlike results from analyses of earlier survey data, we find that the pooled h/m index for a community is not a clear indicator of environmental stress as originally hypothesized. This is due to the relatively large seasonal variability at the sampling sites over the course of the 3-year survey. Other possible indicators for water pollution gradients are checked, including species richness, diversity and prevalence of parasite populations. A theoretical model of host-parasite population dynamics that makes the presence of ecological thresholds transparent is offered to help explain the abrupt transitions prominent in the distributions of parasites at different sites under different pollution loadings. Heavy metal and chlorinated hydrocarbon data collected from fish tissue samples and molluscs of the three seas are assessed as bioindicators for pollution monitoring. The xenobiotic loads and indices of defence system activity and tissue damage are shown to have great potential as monitoring bioindicators.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)272-284
Number of pages13
JournalHelgoland Marine Research
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Oct 2003
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements This study was supported by the German-Israel BMBF MARS project, contract no. 03F0159B coordinated by GKSS Geesthacht and the Ministry of Sciences and Arts, Israel. We would like to thank Helmut Bianchi for his constant encouragement in this project. It is also a pleasure to thank Helmut Baumert and Semen Levikov for their helpful advice. We are thankful to Professor Bresler, Ofer Mokadi and Avigdor Abelson for their helpful advice and data.


  • Bioindicators
  • Fish
  • Molluscs
  • Parasites
  • Pollution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science


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