Author(s): Klerks PL, Weis JS
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Abstract Natural populations in polluted areas are possibly subjected to selective pressures for an increased resistance to toxicants. This can result in the evolution of resistance, which may have important implications for decisions regarding safe ambient toxicant levels. By reviewing the evolution of resistance to heavy metals in aquatic organisms, we aimed to determine if all populations negatively affected by toxicants do adapt to them. If the published literature accurately represents the situation in polluted areas (i.e. negative results having an equal chance of being published), it can be concluded that most, but not all, populations in polluted areas do have an increased resistance. But it can usually not be determined if such an increased resistance has a genetic basis. There is less evidence for the evolution of resistance in metazoans (especially fish) than in micro-organisms. Additional information strongly indicates that many populations fail to survive in polluted environments. It thus seems dangerous to relax water quality criteria on the assumption that all populations in polluted environments will evolve an increased resistance. But the fact that the evolution of resistance to environmental pollutants does seem to occur in some populations in polluted environments warrants taking that possibility into consideration when evaluating the results of bioassays and monitoring programs.
This article was published in Environ Pollut
and referenced in International Journal of Waste Resources