Registration schemes for plant-protection products require applicants to assess the potential ecological risk of their products using a tiered approach. Standard aquatic ecotoxicity tests are used at lower tiers and clearly defined methodologies are available for assessing the potential environmental risks. Safety factors are incorporated into the assessment process to account for the uncertainties associated with the use of lower-tier single-species ecotoxicity studies. If lower-tier assessments indicate that a substance may pose a risk to the environment, impacts can be assessed using more environmentally realistic conditions through the use of either pond mesocosms, artificial streams or field monitoring studies. Whilst these approaches provide more realistic assessments, the results are difficult to interpret and extrapolation to other systems is problematic. Recently it has been recognised that laboratory approaches that are intermediate between standard aquatic toxicity tests and field/mesocosm studies may provide useful data and help reduce the uncertainties associated with standard single-species tests. However, limited guidance is available on what tests are available and how they can be incorporated into the risk-assessment process. This paper reviews a number of these higher-tier laboratory techniques, including modified exposure studies, species sensitivity studies, population studies and tests with sensitive life stages. Recommendations are provided on how the approaches can be incorporated into the risk-assessment process.
© 2002 Society of Chemical Industry