• Biotic ligand model;
  • Ecological risk assessment;
  • Heavy metal;
  • Environmental standard;
  • Bayesian statistics


Biotic ligand models (BLMs) have been broadly accepted and used in ecological risk assessment of heavy metals for toxicity normalization with respect to water chemistry. However, the importance of assessing bioavailability by using BLMs has not been widely recognized among Japanese stakeholders. Failing to consider bioavailability may result in less effective risk management than would be possible if currently available state-of-the-art methods were used to relate bioavailable concentrations to toxic effects. In this study, an ecological risk assessment was conducted using BLMs for 6 rivers in Tokyo to stimulate discussion about bioavailability of heavy metals and the use of BLMs in ecological risk management in Japan. In the risk analysis, a Bayesian approach was used to take advantage of information from previous analyses and to calculate uncertainties in the estimation of risk. Risks were judged to be a concern if the predicted environmental concentration exceeded the 5th percentile concentration (HC5) of the species sensitivity distribution. Based on this criterion, risks to stream biota from exposure to Cu were judged not to be very severe, but it would be desirable to conduct further monitoring and field surveys to determine whether temporary exposure to concentrations exceeding the HC5 causes any irreversible effects on the river ecosystem. The risk of exposure to Ni was a concern at only 1 of the 6 sites. BLM corrections affected these conclusions in the case of Cu but were moot in the case of Ni. The use of BLMs in risk assessment calculations for Japanese rivers requires water quality information that is, unfortunately, not always available. Integr Environ Assess Manag 2013; 9: 63–69. © 2012 SETAC