• Endangered salmon;
  • Insecticides;
  • Ecological risk assessment;
  • Mixture toxicity;
  • Prey base


This risk assessment applied a framework for determining probable co-occurrence of juvenile spring Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) with agricultural pesticides in the Willamette Basin, Oregon (Teply et al. this issue2012) to characterize risk to the threatened population. The assessment accounted for spatial and temporal distribution of 6 acetylcholinesterase-inhibiting insecticides in salmonid habitat within the basin and their relative contributions to mixture toxicity estimated from chemical monitoring data. The 6 insecticides were chlorpyrifos, diazinon, malathion, carbaryl, carbofuran, and methomyl. Seasonal distributions of the juvenile salmon prey base across the basin were determined and compared to co-occurrence with the insecticide mixture to determine the probability of prey reduction and reduced production of juvenile fish. Probability of effect on freshwater aquatic invertebrates was based on acute toxicity species sensitivity distributions (normalized to the most potent compound, chlorpyrifos) using a novel approach to apply the toxicological concept of concentration addition to species sensitivity distributions with differing slopes. The chlorpyrifos distribution was then used to determine relative sensitivity among various species tested within the important taxa making up the prey base. A prey base index was devised, incorporating diet composition and prey availability, to evaluate the indirect effects of the insecticide mixture on juvenile salmon production occurring as a result of a reduction in the prey base. Our analysis targeted fish use of backwater and off-channel habitat units, because they generally coincide with agricultural lands in lowlands and represent shallow habitat with limited water exchange. The percentage of agricultural land use within 300 m of critical habitat stream reaches was used to scale chemical measurement data from a site with high agricultural land use across the full extent of the basin to provide estimates of chemical exposure in each reach. Seasonal impacts were evaluated from mean monthly concentrations. Stressor impact on 5 key taxa was evaluated at each time step and for each reach, and the outcome was compared to a conservation threshold assigned to the prey base index. Only 13% of juveniles reared in backwater, off-channel habitat within 300 m of agricultural land. Percent reduction of carrying capacity as a consequence of reduced prey was estimated to be 5% over the entire brood year. This can be considered lost capacity that is probably compensated elsewhere via increased occupancy (emigration to other habitat units within the reach), which is not accounted for in the model. Integr Environ Assess Manag 2012; 8: 285–300. © 2011 SETAC