This analysis of specific services will focus on the ecosystem service of waste absorption capacities of estrogen contaminants in aquatic ecosystems like Lake Champlain. This naturally occurring chemical in humans, but often chemically artificial mimics of estrogen in consumer products accumulate in anoxic environments (Czajka, C., & Londry, K. ). It does not degrade easily in sediments like other contaminants and also cannot be diluted, destroyed or readily used by bacteria in lakes (Czajka, C., & Londry, K. ). Because of this, the chemical just sits in the lake either accumulating in the body tissues of aquatic species, namely fish, and even may end up in drinking water since wastewater and sewage treatment facilities do not have the technologies to clean the chemical out properly. Estrogens are hormones that regulate the reproductive systems of humans and most animal species (Colborn, Dumanoski, Peterson ). They are chemicals part of the endocrine system that regulate functions of the reproduction systems as well as associated behaviors. Endocrine systems happen to function very similarly across most species, humans and animals alike. Estrogens are very common in a lot of everyday consumer products today such as plastics (water bottles, medical equipment, test tubes, etc.), pharmaceuticals, shampoo/conditioners/etc., cosmetics, perfumes, and more (Colborn, Dumanoski, Peterson). They end up in aquatic ecosystems mainly through the toilet either through urine or direct deposit (Colborn, Dumanoski, Peterson). Too many of a certain hormone in an individual can dramatically change a species sex organs, sexual orientiation and mating behaviors, increase the incidence of breast cancers and other cancers, as well as lead to infertility in an individual or entire population (Colborn, Dumanoski, Peterson).

In terms of estrogen contamination in the Lake Champlain Basin, they have been given the name of “a new generation of contaminants” (State of the Lake Report). In a 2006 USGS study, many of these new generation contaminants were present in low levels in aquatic ecosystems, namely lakes (State of the Lake Report). In Lake Champlain, over 70 different chemicals were detected and those with traces of estrogen included plasticizers, fragrances, stimulants, and pharmaceuticals (State of the Lake Report). More research about Lake Champlain’s estrogen contamination and estrogen contamination widespread is needed to fully understand the implications of this situation (State of the Lake Report). The Lake Champlain Basin Program’s Toxic Management Workgroup is currently developing a comprehensive toxic substance management strategy (State of the Lake Report).

When connecting structure to function in terms of the waste absorption capacities of estrogen in lakes, the structure is the fish and sediments. They accumulate the estrogens. However, at a certain critical point they can’t accumulate anymore in their systems and their populations start to crash from infertility, and other associated reproductive problems. Studies of sediments in contaminated lakes from agricultural, industrial and recreational runoff tested positive for moderate to large amounts of synthetic estrogens in both winter and summer conditions of the lake sediments (Louiz, I.). None of these estrogenic cells showed any signs of degradation or viability to persist in the Lake (Louiz, I.).

Data on the structure, function, and especially, the value of this ecosystem service is as follows. The synthetic estrogens are fleshed down the toilet, into aquatic ecosystems. They then accumulate in the body tissue of fish and wastewater/sewage treatment plants, which don’t have the proper technology yet to filter out these chemicals. In one study of fish by an industrial waste source of estrogenic chemicals, initially fish populations, algae, bacteria, and invertebrates of the lake were not affected by the estrogen contamination (A Poison Pill, 2008). Eventually though, small fish populations began to crash from males loosing sperm counts and becoming feminized and even large fish (i.e. trout) became feminized and their populations decreased and eventually crashed as well (A Poison Pill, 2008). Ultimately, and most interestingly, these fish populations recovered when estrogen from industrial waste was stopped (A Poison Pill, 2008). This illustrates the value of the waste absorption capacities of the lake to prevent such health implications in fish species, and possibly humans as well. This also raises questions about whether aquatic ecosystems, i.e. lakes, do have an ability to buffer such chemicals, and if not, then what regulations should immediately be put into place in order to not further jeopardize human, wildlife, and ecosystems health.

References:

Colborn, Dumanoski, Peterson. Our Stolen Future. Plume Publishing a division of the Penguin Group. 1997. New York, New York.

Czajka, C., & Londry, K. (2006). Anaerobic biotransformation of estrogens. Science of the Total Environment, 367

Louiz, I., Kinani, S., Gouze, M., Ben-Attia, M., Menif, D., Bouchonnet, S., et al. (2008). Monitoring of dioxin-like, estrogenic and anti-androgenic activities in sediments of the Bizerta lagoon (Tunisia) by means of in vitro cell-based bioassays: Contribution of low concentrations of polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Science of the Total Environment, 402(2/3), 318-329. doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2008.05.005.

State of the Lake and Ecosystem Indicators Report. Lake Champlain Basin Program.

Queen City Printers Inc. 2008. [www.lcbp.org/lcstate.htm]

(2008). A Poison Pill. Economist, 386(8568), 100. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier database.

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