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The Environmental Specimen Bank (ESB)

The Environmental Specimen Bank (ESB) is an essential part of the monitoring of contaminants in the Swedish fauna.

It is also of importance for studies of biological diversity and the effects of noxious substances on threatened animal species.

The ESB has one of the oldest and greatest collections of environmental specimens in the world. The oldest samples are collected in the mid-1960s, and for some species continuous series of samples from the late 1960s up to now are stored.

New routines regarding loans from the ESB

New routines regarding loans from the ESB were established in April 2021.
Applications for loans of materials will now be processed five times a year. More information on how to take out a loan from the ESB can be found on the page Loan from the Environmental Specimen Bank.


The majority of the material is stored at a temperature of -25°C and a smaller part at -80° C. Materials such as feathers and eggshells are stored dry at room temperature.

Samples in the ESB

The ESB holds samples of various species representing different parts of the environment. For example fish, blue mussels, seabird eggs and marine mammals from the marine environment. Freshwater fish and otter, representing the limnic environment. Terrestrial species as e.g. elk, brown bear, wolf, wolverine, lynx. Birds of prey representing different types of environment depending on species.

Smaller animals like fish and blue mussels are stored whole while parts of organs are stored for larger species.

Rare and threatened species

Swedish legislation on hunting and shooting rights contains certain regulations specially intended to further nature conservancy, education and research. The Game Act states that certain rare and partly threatened birds and mammals become state property if they are killed, trapped, or found dead, irrespective of any hunting rights involved.

These animals (or parts of them) are sent to the Swedish Museum of Natural History where samples of tissues and organs from the most interesting and valuable species are continuously prepared and stored in the ESB.

Swedish contaminant monitoring

A large part of the samples stored in the ESB is collected through the national environmental monitoring programmes. These long and continuous series of biological samples are used, among other things, for:

  • measuring levels of known environmental contaminants
  • searching for new environmental contaminants
  • following how levels of newly discovered environmental contaminants have changed over time
  • monitoring harmful effects of environmental contaminants in organisms

The ESB also stores older samples of animal tissues and organs donated from various research projects.

International Environmental Specimen Bank Group (IESB)

The International Environmental Specimen Bank Group (IESB)external link promotes world-wide development of techniques and strategies of environmental specimen banking. The IESB includes both established Environmental Specimen Banks (ESBs) and new ESBs in the planning stages.