Biomass or growth rate endpoint for algae and aquatic plants: Relevance for the aquatic risk assessment of herbicides



Ecotoxicological studies with algae and aquatic plants are essential parts of the aquatic risk assessment for crop protection products (CPP). Growth rate is used as a response variable and in addition the effects on biomass and/or yield (in the following biomass) can be measured. The parameter biomass generally provides a lower numerical value compared with the growth rate for systematic and mathematical reasons. Therefore, some regulators prefer to use the EbC50 value (i.e., the concentration at which 50% reduction of biomass is observed) rather than ErC50 (the concentration at which a 50% inhibition of growth rate is observed) as the endpoint for ecotoxicological risk assessment. However, the parameter growth rate is scientifically more appropriate and robust against deviations in test conditions, permitting better interpretation of, and comparison between, studies. The aim of the present work is to evaluate the growth rate and biomass parameters with regard to their protectiveness and suitability for environmental risk assessment of CPP. It has been shown for a number of herbicides that the use of the EC50 value (without distinction between growth rate and biomass endpoints) from laboratory studies in combination with an assessment factor of 10 is sufficiently protective for aquatic plants (except for the herbicide 2,4-D). In this paper we evaluated EbC50 and ErC50 values seperately. Data on 19 different herbicides were compiled from the literature or GLP reports. The EbC50 and ErC50 values obtained in laboratory studies were compared with effect concentrations in ecosystem studies (mainly mesocosm). This comparison of laboratory and field data shows that the overall aquatic risk assessment using ErC50 values in combination with the currently applied assessment factor of 10 is sufficient to exclude significant risk to aquatic plants in the environment. Integr Environ Assess Manag 2011;7:237–247. © 2010 SETAC