Nucleic acid-based biosensors are finding increasing use for the detection of environmental pollution and toxicity. A biosensor is defined as a compact analytical device incorporating a biological or biologically-derived sensing element either integrated within or intimately associated with a physicochemical transducer. A nucleic acid-based biosensor employs as the sensing element an oligonucleotide, with a known sequence of bases, or a complex structure of DNA or RNA. Nucleic acid biosensors can be used to detect DNA/RNA fragments or either biological or chemical species. In the first application, DNA/RNA is the analyte and it is detected through the hybridization reaction (this kind of biosensor is also called a genosensor). In the second application, DNA/RNA plays the role of the receptor of specific biological and/or chemical species, such as target proteins, pollutants or drugs. Recent advances in the development and applications of nucleic acid-based biosensors for environmental application are reviewed in this article with special emphasis on functional nucleic acid elements (aptamers, DNAzymes, aptazymes) and lab-on-a-chip technology.