Marine biodiversity is threatened by several anthropogenic pressures. Pollution deriving from the discharge of chemical contaminants in the sea represents one of the main threats to the marine environment, influencing the health of organisms, their ability to recover their homeostatic status, and in turn endangering biodiversity. Molecular and cellular responses to chemical pollutants, known as biomarkers, are effect-based methodologies useful for detecting exposure and for assessing the effects of pollutants on biota in environmental monitoring. The present review analyzes and discusses the recent literature on the use of biomarkers in the framework of biodiversity conservation. The study shows that pollution biomarkers can be useful tools for monitoring and assessment of pollution threat to marine biodiversity, both in the environmental quality monitoring of protected areas and the assessment of the health status of species at risk. Moreover, key areas of the research that need further development are suggested, such as the development of omics-based biomarkers specifically addressed to conservation purposes and their validation in the field, the extension of the biomarker study to a wider number of endangered species, and the development of organic guidelines for the application of the biomarker approach in support to conservation policies and management.
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