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Keywords:

  • Ecological modeling;
  • Pesticide risk assessment;
  • Population-level effects;
  • Toxicity

Abstract

Ecological risk assessments of pesticides usually focus on risk at the level of individuals, and are carried out by comparing exposure and toxicological endpoints. However, in most cases the protection goal is populations rather than individuals. On the population level, effects of pesticides depend not only on exposure and toxicity, but also on factors such as life history characteristics, population structure, timing of application, presence of refuges in time and space, and landscape structure. Ecological models can integrate such factors and have the potential to become important tools for the prediction of population-level effects of exposure to pesticides, thus allowing extrapolations, for example, from laboratory to field. Indeed, a broad range of ecological models have been applied to chemical risk assessment in the scientific literature, but so far such models have only rarely been used to support regulatory risk assessments of pesticides. To better understand the reasons for this situation, the current modeling practice in this field was assessed in the present study. The scientific literature was searched for relevant models and assessed according to nine characteristics: model type, model complexity, toxicity measure, exposure pattern, other factors, taxonomic group, risk assessment endpoint, parameterization, and model evaluation. The present study found that, although most models were of a high scientific standard, many of them would need modification before they are suitable for regulatory risk assessments. The main shortcomings of currently available models in the context of regulatory pesticide risk assessments were identified. When ecological models are applied to regulatory risk assessments, we recommend reviewing these models according to the nine characteristics evaluated here. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2010;29:1006–1012. © 2010 SETAC