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Surface Water Hydrology

  1. Zhi-Qing Lin

Published Online: 15 JUL 2005

DOI: 10.1002/047147844X.sw56

Water Encyclopedia

Water Encyclopedia

How to Cite

Lin, Z.-Q. 2005. Bioaccumulation. Water Encyclopedia. 3:34–36.

Author Information

  1. Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, Edwardsville, Illinois

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 JUL 2005


Bioaccumulation is a process by which a chemical from the environment accumulates in an organism's body over time. It results from mass equilibrium where the uptake of a chemical into the body of an organism exceeds the elimination of the chemical from the body. Bioaccumulation occurs when there is a concentration increase of the chemical in the tissues of an organism. When the concentration of a chemical becomes higher in an organism than in the environment, the bioaccumulation process is specifically termed bioconcentration. Distribution of an accumulated chemical in an organism varies significantly among tissues/organs, species, and chemicals. One of the important environmental concerns of bioaccumulation is biomagnification, whereby the concentration of a chemical increases at each higher trophic level through a food chain. Biomagnification can result in a concentration increase between two trophic levels of two to three orders of magnitude. The term bioaccumulation is sometimes also used to refer to the total amount of a chemical accumulated in the body of an organism.


  • bioaccumulation;
  • uptake;
  • metabolism;
  • excretion;
  • biodegradation;
  • volatilization;
  • bioconcentration;
  • phytoextraction