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Keywords:

  • Ecological models;
  • Extrapolation recovery;
  • Indirect effects;
  • Bioaccumulation

Abstract

Whereas current chemical risk assessment (RA) schemes within the European Union (EU) focus mainly on toxicity and bioaccumulation of chemicals in individual organisms, most protection goals aim at preserving populations of nontarget organisms rather than individuals. Ecological models are tools rarely recommended in official technical documents on RA of chemicals, but are widely used by researchers to assess risks to populations, communities and ecosystems. Their great advantage is the relatively straightforward integration of the sensitivity of species to chemicals, the mode of action and fate in the environment of toxicants, life-history traits of the species of concern, and landscape features. To promote the usage of ecological models in regulatory risk assessment, this study tries to establish whether existing, published ecological modeling studies have addressed or have the potential to address the protection aims and requirements of the chemical directives of the EU. We reviewed 148 publications, and evaluated and analyzed them in a database according to defined criteria. Published models were also classified in terms of 5 areas where their application would be most useful for chemical RA. All potential application areas are well represented in the published literature. Most models were developed to estimate population-level responses on the basis of individual effects, followed by recovery process assessment, both in individuals and at the level of metapopulations. We provide case studies for each of the proposed areas of ecological model application. The lack of clarity about protection goals in legislative documents made it impossible to establish a direct link between modeling studies and protection goals. Because most of the models reviewed here were not developed for regulatory risk assessment, there is great potential and a variety of ecological models in the published literature. Integr Environ Assess Manag 2010;6:338–360. © 2010 SETAC