Field studies using fish biomarkers – How many fish are enough?
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Significant efforts are invested in field studies using fish, and it is important to optimize the number of organisms collected to evaluate the possible impacts of contamination. This paper provides ecotoxicologists with the approximate numbers of fish needed to identify statistically significant differences among samples using physiological indices and biochemical markers of fish health. The numbers of fish to collect are reported for ethoxyresorufin-o-deethylase (EROD); ethoxycoumarin-o-deethylase (ECOD), serum sorbitol dehydrogenase (sSDH), stress proteins, gonadosomatic index, liver somatic index, condition factor, and biliary metabolites of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. The number of fish to collect was as few as four for ECOD activity (with a power of 80%), but as high as 106 for CF (with a power of 95%). Achieving statistical significance between sites does not help in the interpretation of the biological significance of a parameter, but well-planned field samplings will maximize the chances of correctly identifying areas of concern.
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