Different classes of indicator organisms are used for 'biological monitoring', where each class may offer a very different response to pollution. Certain organisms have capacity to accumulate pollutants, whereas others are sensitive to the presence of pollutants and react either negatively or positively. Following are some different classes of indicator organisms used in environmental monitoring:
1. Sensitive organisms introduced into the environment to test for early warning of pollution, for example, canaries in coalmines.
2. Naturally occurring species that are very sensitive to pollution. Some species may show changes in growth, reproduction, or behavior and, if very sensitive, they might just disappear. For example, lichens are very sensitive to pollution.
3. Organisms whose presence indicates the presence of pollution. These organisms become abundant in polluted areas due to lack of competition, for example, Enteromorpha, following oil spills.
4. Organisms that take up and accumulate pollutants, for example, mollusks accumulating heavy metals or accumulation of hydrocarbons in mussels.
5. Some organisms can be used in the laboratory to detect the presence or concentration of toxic pollutants.
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