Team:Bielefeld-Germany/Environment

From 2012.igem.org

Environmental state

Figure 1: Dipl.-Biol. Nicolai Fricke of the Heinrich von Thünen-Institute of Fisheries Ecology.

Introduction

We interviewed Nicolai Fricke, an expert of the Heinrich von Thünen-Institute of Fisheries Ecology to get a brief abstract about the problems, which we want to solve.

Questions

How strong is the effect of steroid hormones onto aquatic organisms? A differentiation between marine ecological systems and freshwater ecological systems is required. There are a lot of references, that indicate a strong influence on aquatic organisms. In the baltic sea serious concentrations above the no-effect level have been detected. The concentration of vitellogenin (a protein indicating hormone pollution) has been significantly increased and substances such as estrogens could be detected. Many fish species spawn in coastal waters, where the highest concentrations of hormones could be detected. The further away the input sources of hormones are, the less significant are the effects. Therefore the problem with hormones in rivers is far more serious. The feminization of several fish species in rivers could be disclosed. Also the effect of hormones on crustaceans and microorganisms could have been shown.

Do you think that commonly used methods for waste water treatment are sufficient for elimination of hormones? The currently used methods are definitely not sufficient, the effect of hormones on many fish species constantly increases.

Do you think that alternative methods could possibly solve this problem? In the end it is always about the costs. If an alternative system can be produced at less cost, there is a chance that it will find its way into commercial applications. Of course marine systems are very fragile. No one can predict the consequences of a collapsing big marine ecological system. Even the costs and the influence on the local economy can hardly be predicted. Even higher costs and an unfavorable cost-benefit evaluation of an alternative system for waste water treatment may be acceptable to prevent dramatic ecological problems.

Conclusion

The seriousness of the problems of aquatic organisms are much more urgent than we thought. Some ecological systems are close to collapsing and the extent of the aftereffects can only be guessed. The damage to local economy would be unavoidable. Therefore it is time for alternative applications to show that hormones can be eliminated properly.




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