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Keywords:

  • White sucker;
  • Pulp mill effluent;
  • Population model;
  • Density dependence

Abstract

Credible ecological risk assessments often need to include analysis of population-level impacts. In the present study, a predictive model was developed to investigate population dynamics for white sucker (Catostomus commersoni) exposed to pulp mill effluent at a well-studied site in Jackfish Bay, Lake Superior, Canada. The model uniquely combines a Leslie population projection matrix and the logistic equation to translate changes in the fecundity and the age structure of a breeding population of white sucker exposed to pulp mill effluent to alterations in population growth rate. Application of this density-dependent population projection model requires construction of a life table for the organism of interest, a measure of carrying capacity, and an estimation of the effect of stressors on vital rates. A white sucker population existing at carrying capacity and subsequently exposed to pulp mill effluent equivalent to a documented exposure experienced during the period 1988 to 1994 in Jackfish Bay would be expected to exhibit a 34% to 51% annual decrease in recruitment during the first 5 yr of exposure and approach a population size of 71% of carrying capacity. The Jackfish Bay study site contains monitoring data for biochemical endpoints in white sucker, including circulating sex steroid concentrations, that could be combined with population modeling to utilize the model demonstrated at the Jackfish Bay study site for investigation of other white sucker populations at sites that are less data-rich. Environ Toxicol Chem 2013;32:1592–1603. © 2013 SETAC