1067-4136/05/3601- © 2005 Pleiades Publishing, Inc.
Russian Journal of Ecology, Vol. 36, No. 1, 2005, pp. 27–32. Translated from Ekologiya, No. 1, 2005, pp. 32–38.
Original Russian Text Copyright © 2005 by Shilova, Shatunovskii.
Interest in the protection of the environment from
global pollution with ecotoxicants has been steadily
increasing in the recent decade. This important problem
has been considered in dozens of reviews and special
studies performed in different regions (Mannion, 1991;
, 1994; Krivolutskii, 1996). However,
despite the attempts to prevent pollution of ecosystems,
emissions of highly toxic chemical compounds have not
decreased in recent years. The most important sources of
the pollution of natural ecosystems, as before, are unpre-
dictable technogenic disasters (Krivolutskii, 1996;
, 1997), as well as permanent waste dis-
charge from numerous chemical plants (Bezel’
1994). Application of toxic agents as a method for con-
trolling the populations of pests or animals that have epi-
demiological signiﬁcance is still widely practiced
(Krebs, 1999; Yakovlev and Babich, 2003).
Fresh water bodies are being polluted with salts of
heavy metals, oil products, chlorinated hydrocarbons,
phenols, and other toxic agents. During the past
50 years, increasing numbers of ﬁsh communities in
small rivers and lakes have perished due to spillage of
various chemical substances (accidents at chemical
plants, shipwrecked vessels carrying oil products or
other agents, etc.). In the territory of the former Soviet
Union, such disasters occurred in the basins of the
Volga, Dniester, Pechora, Ob, and other rivers (Sha-
, 1996; Shatunovskii, 1998).
Due to air mass transfer, acid rains fall over the ter-
ritories of Scandinavian countries, England, the Baltic
states, and, in Russia, in Karelia and on the Kola Penin-
sula. As a result, the ichthyofauna of several hundreds
of lakes in southern Norway perished due to water acid-
iﬁcation; moreover, all river populations of the Atlantic
) and half of the trout (
) population disappeared by the early 1980s.
Thus, the objective assessment of the state of animal
populations under critical conditions and the identiﬁca-
tion of mechanisms promoting the restoration of eco-
system stability are of major signiﬁcance today.
Developing some approaches to the assessment of
the impact of technogenic disasters on natural ecosys-
tems, we distinguished two categories of disasters
based on their consequences for the biota (Shatunovskii
and Shilova, 1995): (1) disasters that, irrespective of
their economic and social consequences, disturb biota
only to such a threshold that its recovery and stabiliza-
tion are still possible and (2) disasters causing irrevers-
ible changes in the biota, which manifested themselves
long after the disaster and render the principal biotic
components in the impact zone incapable of recovery.
Naturally, the consequences of the second category of
disaster can be most tragic for the ecosystem as a
whole. Hence, it is extremely important to reveal bio-
logical parameters that normalize the population
dynamics of animals in the zone of disaster.
The criteria for assessing the state of biota in the
zones of technogenic disasters are being successfully
elaborated. They take into account a variety of indices
characterizing the state and dynamics of individual eco-
system components: species diversity, genetic distur-
bances, viability, abundance, reproduction rate, popula-
tion demography, etc. (Bezel’, 1987; Luk’yanova
, 1994). Among these indices,
Ecophysiological Indicators of the State of Animal Populations
Exposed to Damaging Factors
S. A. Shilova and M. I. Shatunovskii
Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution,
Leninskii pr. 33, Moscow, 117071 Russia
Received May 28, 2004
—Indices of abundance and reproduction rate are considered in some groups of aquatic and terrestrial
vertebrates from the zones of technogenic disasters. Upon a critical population decline caused by external
destructive factors, such as emissions of acute ecotoxicants, the ecophysiological and behavioral compensatory
mechanisms are activated, which provide for restoration of the total population size to the optimum within a
short period of time. Environmental pollution with substances disturbing the reproductive function has the grav-
est consequences for animals. In this case, population size may remain fairly high, and, therefore, the effect of
enhanced reproduction as a response to population decline does not take place, which eventually leads to a grad-
ual but irreversible destruction of the population. Pathologies of reproduction should be used as a criterion for
assessing the state of animals in the zones of technogenic disasters.
: technogenic disasters, ﬁsh, mammals, population numbers, pathologies of reproduction.