• Probability survey;
  • Monitoring data;
  • Probabilistic ecological risk assessment;
  • Dissolved oxygen;
  • Environmental criteria


We show that probability-based environmental resource monitoring programs, such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (U.S. EPA) Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program, and conditional probability analysis can serve as a basis for estimating ecological risk over broad geographic areas. Under certain conditions (including appropriate stratification of the sampled population, sufficient density of samples, and sufficient range of exposure levels paired with concurrent response values), this empirical approach provides estimates of risk using extant field-derived monitoring data. The monitoring data were used to prescribe the exposure field and to model the exposure–response relationship. We illustrate this approach by estimating risks to benthic communities from low dissolved oxygen (DO) in freshwater streams of the mid-Atlantic region and in estuaries of the Virginian Biogeographical Province of the United States. In both cases, the estimates of risk are consistent with the U.S. EPA's ambient water quality criteria for DO. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2011; 30:1488–1495. © 2011 SETAC