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published as:

Ostroumov S.A. Polyfunctional role of biodiversity in processes leading

to water purification: current conceptualizations and concluding
remarks. - Hydrobiologia, 2002, 469: 203-204.



Faculty of Biology, M.V.Lomonosov Moscow State University, Moscow 119991
Russia; ar55[at]

Key words: water quality, water purification, self-purification,

biodiversity, pollutants, ecosystem services, freshwater, marine,
aquatic ecosystems, sustainability

Sustainable use of aquatic resources is based on the ability of

aquatic ecosystems to maintain a certain level of water quality.
Water self-purification in both freshwater and marine ecosystems is
based on a number of interconnected processes (e.g., Wetzel,
1983; Spellman, 1996; Ostroumov 1998, 2000). Among them are:
(1) physical and physico-chemical processes, including: (1.1)
solution and dilution of pollutants; (1.2) export of pollutants to the
adjacent land areas; (1.3) export of pollutants to the adjacent water
bodies; (1.4) sorption of pollutants onto suspended particles and
further sedimentation of the latter; (1.5) sorption of pollutants by
sediments; (1.6) evaporation of pollutants;
(2) chemical processes, including: (2.1) hydrolysis of
pollutants; (2.2) photochemical transformations; (2.3) redox-
catalytic transformations; (2.4) transformations including free
radicals; (2.5) binding of pollutants by dissolved organic matter,
which may lead to decreasing toxicity; (2.6) chemical oxidation of
pollutants by oxygen;
(3) biological processes, including: (3.1) sorption, uptake and
accumulation of pollutants by organisms; (3.2) biotransformations
(redox reactions, degradation, conjugation), mineralization of
organic matter; (3.3) transformation of pollutants by extracellular
enzymes; (3.4) removal of suspended matter and pollutants from
the water column in the process of water filtering by filter-feeders;
(3.5) removal of pollutants from the water in the process of sorption
by pellets excreted by aquatic organisms; (3.6) uptake of nutrients
(including P, N, and organic molecules) by organisms; (3.7)
biotransformation and sorption of pollutants in soil (and removal of
nutrients), important when polluted waters are in contact with
terrestrial ecosystems; (3.8) a network of regulatory processes
when certain organisms control or influence other organisms
involved in water purification.
Living organisms are involved in physical, physico-chemical
and chemical processes 1.1-1.6 and 2.1-2.6 directly or through
excretion of oxygen or organic metabolites, production of
suspended matter, affecting turbidity, temperature of water or other
parameters of the ecosystem. As a result, living organisms are the
core component of the multitude of processes of the ecological
machinery working towards improving water quality. This
component performs eight vital functions directly (3.1-3.8) and is
involved indirectly in some of the other twelve functions (1.1-1.6
and 2.1-2.6) so that its role is clearly polyfunctional.
Living organisms of aquatic bodies (both autotrophs and
heterotrophs) are enormously diverse in terms of taxonomy. Among
them, autotrophs generate oxygen that is involved in the processes
2.6 and 2.4 above. Heterotrophs perform processes 3.1, 3.2, 3.4,
3.5 and some others. Virtually all biodiversity is involved.
Given this polyfunctional role of aquatic organisms, in one of
our publications we compared aquatic ecosystems to 'large-scale
diversified bioreactors with a function of water purification'
(Ostroumov, 2000).
What is interesting about the biomachinery of water
purification is the fact that it is an energy-saving device. It is using
the energy of the sun (autotrophs) and the energy of organic matter
which is being oxidized in the process of being removed from water
by heterotrophs.
Some interesting examples of how various organisms are
incorporated in that polyfunctional activity were given by authors of
the preceding papers in this volume.
The importance of aquatic organisms in performing key
functions in the hydrosphere provides an additional convincing
rationale for protecting biodiversity.
The efficiency of the entire complex of those processes leading
to water purification in ecosystems is a prerequisite for the
sustainable use of aquatic resources. Man-made effects on any of
those processes (we have shown effects of surfactants on water
filtration by bivalves; some of the experiments were carried out
together with Dr. P. Donkin) may impair the efficiency of water self-
purification (Ostroumov, 1998; Ostroumov et al., 1998; Ostroumov &
Fedorov, 1999; Ostroumov 2001a, 2001b).
We postulate and predict that further studies will provide new
striking examples of how important biodiversity is in performing
many vital ecological processes leading to upgrading water quality.
By doing so, the multifunctional participation of biodiversity
supports the sustainable use of water as one of key resources for
The body of new data and ideas presented in this volume will
hopefully serve towards following interconnected and partially
overlapping goals:
prioritization of efforts on research and management in the
area of aquatic resources and aquatic environment;
biodiversity studies and protection;
sustainable use of aquatic bioresources;
advancement of aquaculture and mariculture;
decreasing costs and increasing efficiencies in wastewater
treatment using ecosystems;
combatting eutrophication;
understanding the role of biota in biogeochemical flows of
chemical elements and in buffering global change.
Acknowledgement. The author thanks Acad. Prof. A. F. Alimov,
Acad.Prof. D. S. Pavlov, Acad. Prof. M. E. Vinogradov, Prof.
C. Steinberg, Prof. N. Walz, Prof. P. Wangersky for discussions, the
Open Society Foundation for support.
Ostroumov, S.A., 1998. Biological filtering and ecological
machinery for self-purification and bioremediation in aquatic
ecosystems: towards a holistic view. Rivista di Biologia / Biology
Forum. 91: 247-258.
Ostroumov, S.A., 2000. Aquatic ecosystem: a large-scale,
diversified bioreactor with the function of water self-purification
(Vodnaja ekosistema: krupnorazmernyj diversifitzirovannyj
bioreaktor s funktzijej samoochishchenija vody). Doklady Biological
Sciences 374: 514-516 (the Russian edition: Dokl. Akad. Nauk 374:
Ostroumov, S.A., 2001a. Amphiphilic chemical inhibits the
ability of molluscs to filter water and to remove the cells of
phytoplankton (Amfifil'noe veshchestvo podavljaet sposobnost'
molluskov filtrovat' vodu i udalat' iz nee kletki fitoplanktona).
Izvestia RAN. Ser. Biology. 1: 108-116. Translated into English: An
amphiphilic substance inhibits the mollusk capacity to filter out
phytoplankton cells from water. - Biology Bulletin, 2001, Vol. 28, No.
1, p. 95-102. DOI 10.1023/A:1026671024000. PMID: 11236572
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE].
Ostroumov, S.A., 2001b. Effects of amphiphilic chemicals on marine
organisms filter-feeders (Vozdeistvie amfifil'nykh veshchestv na
morskikh gidrobiontov-filtratorov). Dokl. Akad. Nauk . Vol. 378. No. 2:
283-285. Translated into English: Effect of amphiphilic chemicals on filter-feeding
marine organisms. - Doklady Biological Sciences. 2001. 378: 248-250.; DOI
Ostroumov, S.A., P. Donkin & F. Staff, 1998. Filtration inhibition
induced by two classes of synthetic surfactants in the bivalve
mollusc (Narushenije filtratzii dvustvorchatymi molluskami pod
vozdejstvijem poverkhnostno-aktivnykh veshchestv dvukh klassov).
Dokl. Akad. Nauk 362: 574-576. Translated into English: Filtration
inhibition induced by two classes of synthetic surfactants in the
bivalve mollusk Mytilus edulis // Doklady Biological Sciences, 1998.
Vol. 362, P. 454-456.
Ostroumov, S.A. & V.D. Fedorov, 1999. The main components
of self-purification of ecosystems and its possible impairment as a
result of chemical pollution (Osnovnyje komponenty
samoochishchenija ekosistem i vozmozhnost' ego narushenija v
rezultate khimicheskogo zagrjaznenija). Bulletin of Moscow
University. Ser. 16. Biology (Vestnik Moskovskogo Universiteta. Ser.
16. Biologija) 1: 24-32.
Spellman, F.R., 1996. Stream Ecology and Self-purification.
Technomic Publishing Co., Lancaster, Basel. 133 pp.
Wetzel, R. G., 1983. Limnology. Saunders College Publishing,
Fort Worth. 858 pp.

(added when the paper was put at the web site).
The main conclusions of the paper were supported in a series of
publications. The following publications are among them.
1. Ostroumov S. A. Biological Effects of Surfactants. CRC Press. Taylor & Francis. Boca Raton, London, New
York. 2006. 279 p. ISBN 0-8493-2526-9.
2. Ostroumov S. A. The concept of aquatic biota as a labile and vulnerable component of the water self-
purification system - Doklady Biological Sciences, Vol. 372, 2000, pp. 286–289.;
3. Ostroumov S. A., Kolesnikov M. P. Biocatalysis of Matter Transfer in a Microcosm Is Inhibited by a
Contaminant: Effects of a Surfactant on Limnea stagnalis. - Doklady Biological Sciences, 2000, 373: 397–399.
Translated from Doklady Akademii Nauk, 2000, Vol. 373, No. 2, pp. 278–280.
4. Ostroumov S. A. An aquatic ecosystem: a large-scale diversified bioreactor with a water self-purification
function. - Doklady Biological Sciences, 2000. Vol. 374, P. 514-516.
5. Ostroumov SA. Criteria of ecological hazards due to anthropogenic effects on the biota: searching for a
system. - Dokl Biol Sci (Doklady Biological Sciences). 2000; 371:204-206.
6. Ostroumov S. A. An amphiphilic substance inhibits the mollusk capacity to filter out phytoplankton cells
from water. - Biology Bulletin, 2001, Volume 28, Number 1, p. 95-102.
ISSN 1062-3590 (Print) 1608-3059 (Online); DOI 10.1023/A:1026671024000;;
7. Ostroumov S. A. Inhibitory Analysis of Regulatory Interactions in Trophic Webs. -Doklady Biological
Sciences, 2001, Vol. 377, pp. 139–141. Translated from Doklady Akademii Nauk, 2000, Vol. 375, No. 6, pp.
8. Ostroumov SA. The synecological approach to the problem of eutrophication. - Dokl Biol Sci. (Doklady
Biological Sciences). 2001; 381:559-562.
9. Ostroumov SA. The hazard of a two-level synergism of synecological summation of anthropogenic effects. -
Dokl Biol Sci. (Doklady Biological Sciences). 2001; 380:499-501.
10.Ostroumov SA. Responses of Unio tumidus to mixed chemical preparations and the hazard of synecological
summation of anthropogenic effects. - Dokl Biol Sci (Doklady Biological Sciences). 2001; 380: 492-495.
11.Ostroumov SA, Kolesnikov MP. Pellets of some mollusks in the biogeochemical flows of C, N, P, Si, and Al. -
Dokl Biol Sci (Doklady Biological Sciences). 2001; 379:378-381.
12.Ostroumov SA. Imbalance of factors providing control of unicellular plankton populations exposed to
anthropogenic impact. - Dokl Biol Sci (Doklady Biological Sciences). 2001; 379:341-343.;
13. Ostroumov SA. Effect of amphiphilic chemicals on filter-feeding marine organisms.- Dokl Biol Sci (Doklady
Biological Sciences). 2001; 378:248-250.
14.Ostroumov SA. Biodiversity protection and quality of water: the role of feedbacks in ecosystems. - Dokl Biol
Sci (Doklady Biological Sciences). 2002; 382:18-21;;;
15.Ostroumov SA. A new type of effect of potentially hazardous substances: uncouplers of pelagial-benthal
coupling. - Dokl Biol Sci (Doklady Biological Sciences). 2002; 383:127-130.;;
16.Ostroumov S. A. Identification of a New Type of Ecological Hazard of Chemicals: Inhibition of Processes of
Ecological Remediation. - Doklady Biological Sciences, Vol. 385, 2002 (November), pp. 377–379. [Translated
from Doklady Akademii Nauk, Vol. 385, No. 4, 2002, pp. 571–573].;
17.Ostroumov SA. System of principles for conservation of the biogeocenotic function and the biodiversity of
filter-feeders. - Dokl Biol Sci (Doklady Biological Sciences). 2002; 383:147-150.;
18.Ostroumov S. A., Walz N., Rusche R. Effect of a cationic amphiphilic compound on rotifers. - Doklady
Biological Sciences. 2003 (May). Vol. 390. 252-255, [ISSN 0012-4966 (Print) 1608-3105 (Online)].;
19.Ostroumov S.A. Anthropogenic effects on the biota: towards a new system of principles and criteria for
analysis of ecological hazards. - Rivista di Biologia/Biology Forum. 2003. 96: 159-170. PMID: 12852181
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
20.Ostroumov S. A. On the biotic self-purification of aquatic ecosystems: elements of the theory. - Doklady
Biological Sciences, 2004, Vol. 396, Numbers 1-6, p. 206-211.;
21.Ostroumov S. A., Widdows J. Inhibition of mussel suspension feeding by surfactants of three classes. //
Hydrobiologia. 2006. Vol. 556, No. 1. Pages: 381 – 386. DOI 10.1007/s10750-005-1200-7;;;
22.Ostroumov S. A. Biotic self-purification of aquatic ecosystems: from the theory to ecotechnologies. -
Ecologica, 2007. vol. 15 (50), p.15-23. (ISSN 0354-3285). [
23.Ostroumov S.A., Shestakova T.V. Decreasing the measurable concentrations of Cu, Zn, Cd, and Pb in the
water of the experimental systems containing Ceratophyllum demersum: The phytoremediation potential //
Doklady Biological Sciences 2009, Vol. 428, No. 1, p. 444-447.;;
24.Ostroumov S.A. Towards the general theory of ecosystem-depended control of water quality. - Ecologica,
2009, vol. 16, No. 54, p. 25-32.
25.Ostroumov S. A. Basics of the molecular-ecological mechanism of water quality formation and water self-
purification.- Contemporary Problems of Ecology, 2008, Vol. 1, No. 1, p. 147-152. [MAIK
Nauka/Interperiodica; distributed by Springer Science+Business Media LLC; ISSN 1995-4255 (Print) 1995-
4263 (Online); DOI 10.1134/S1995425508010177;

The paper was cited in the publications written by scientists and experts
working in several countries. Among those publications are:

Journal of Applied Phycology, 2005, 17: 557-567, DOI

Integrated outdoor culture of two estuarine macroalgae as
biofilters for dissolved nutrients from Sparus auratus waste waters.
Ignacio Hernández, M. Angeles Fernández-Engo, J. Lucas Pérez-
Lloréns and Juan J. Vergara.
Assessment of ecosystem health of tropical shallow
waterbodies in eastern India using turbulence model. Aquatic
Ecosystem Health & Management, 2009, Volume 12, Number 2, pp.
215-225, DOI:10.1080/14634980902908589;
Authors: Samal, N. R.1; Mazumdar, A.2; Johnk, K. D.3; Peeters,
F.4. 1: Dept. of Civil Engineering, National Institute of
Technology Durgapur, Durgapur, West Bengal, India 2: School of
Water Resources Engineering, Jadavpur University, Kolkata, West
Bengal, India 3: Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland
Fisheries, Neuglobsow, Germany 4: Limnologisches Institut,
University of Konstanz, Konstanz, Germany;
Publisher: Taylor and Francis Ltd;
Intra-basin spatial approach on pollution load estimation in a
large Mediterranean river. - Desalination, 2010, Vol. 250, Issue 1,
Pages 118-129, DOI:10.1016/j.desal.2008.12.062. Yorgos
Chatzinikolaoua, b, Alexis Ioannou a, and Maria Lazaridou a;
a Department of Biology, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki,
GR-54124, Thessaloniki, Greece;
b Institute of Inland Waters, Hellenic Center for Marine
Research, P.O. Box 712, GR-19013, Anavyssos, Attica, Greece;
Water quality of effluent-dominated ecosystems:
hydrological, and management considerations.- Hydrobiologia
(2006) 556:365–379.
Bryan W. Brooks1,*, Timothy M. Riley2 & Ritchie D. Taylor3;
[Full text free:];
1Department of Environmental Studies, Center for Reservoir
and Aquatic Systems Research, Baylor University, One Bear Place #
97266, Waco, Texas 76798, USA;
2Barton Springs / Edwards Aquifer Conservation District, 1124
Regal Row, Austin, Texas 78748, USA;
3Department of Public Health, Centre for Water Resource
Studies, Western Kentucky University, 1 Big Red Way, EST 437,
Bowling Green, Kentucky 42101, USA;
*Author for correspondence: Tel.: 254-710-6553; DOI
Chatzinikolaou, Y.; Lazaridou, M. (2007). Identification of the
self-purification stretches of the Pinios River, Central Greece Medit.
Mar. Sci. 8(2): 19-32; [Mediterranean Marine Science. National
Centre for Marine Research: Athens. ISSN 1108-393X], 1Department
of Zoology, School of Biology, Faculty of Sciences,
Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece;
2Institute of Inland Waters, Hellenic Centre for Marine
46.7 km Athinon - Souniou Av., 190 13, P.O. Box 712,
Anavissos, Hellas;
Full text free:
REN Rui-li, LIU Mao-song, ZHANG Jie-ming, ZHANG Ming,
XU Mei. Self-purification ability of a water-carrying lake. - CHINESE