A method for deriving water-quality benchmarks using field data



The authors describe a methodology that characterizes effects to individual genera observed in the field and estimate the concentration at which 5% of genera are adversely affected. Ionic strength, measured as specific conductance, is used to illustrate the methodology. Assuming some resilience in the population, 95% of the genera are afforded protection. The authors selected an unambiguous effect, the presence or absence of a genus from sampling locations. The absence of a genus, extirpation, is operationally defined as the point above which only 5% of the observations of a genus occurs. The concentrations that cause extirpation of each genus are rank-ordered from least to greatest, and the benchmark is estimated at the 5th percentile of the distribution using two-point interpolation. When a full range of exposures and many taxa are included in the model of taxonomic sensitivity, the model broadly characterizes how species in general respond to a concentration gradient of the causal agent. This recognized U.S. Environmental Protection Agency methodology has many advantages. Observations from field studies include the full range of conditions, effects, species, and interactions that occur in the environment and can be used to model some causal relationships that laboratory studies cannot. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2013;32:255–262. © 2012 SETAC