Spatially explicit ecological exposure models: A rationale for and path toward their increased acceptance and use



Spatially explicit wildlife exposure models have been developed to integrate chemical concentrations dispersed in space and time, heterogeneous habitats of varying qualities, and foraging behaviors of wildlife to give more realistic wildlife exposure estimates for ecological risk assessments. These models not only improve the realism of wildlife exposure estimates, but also increase the efficiency of remedial planning. However, despite being widely available, these models are rarely used in baseline (definitive) ecological risk assessments. A lack of precedent for their use, misperceptions about models in general and spatial models in particular, non-specific or no enabling regulations, poor communication, and uncertainties regarding inputs are all impediments to greater use of such models. An expert workshop was convened as part of an Environmental Security Technology Certification Program Project to evaluate current applications for spatially explicit models and consider ways such models could bring increased realism to ecological exposure assessments. Specific actions (e.g., greater accessibility and innovation in model design, increased communication with and training opportunities for decision makers and regulators, explicit consideration during assessment planning and problem formulation) were discussed as mechanisms to increase the use of these valuable and innovative modeling tools. The intent of this workshop synopsis is to highlight for the ecological risk assessment community both the value and availability of a wide range of spatial models and to recommend specific actions that may help to increase their acceptance and use by ecological risk assessment practitioners. Integr Environ Assess Manag 2011;7:158–168. © 2011 SETAC