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Modeling the influence of temporal and spatial factors on the assessment of impacts of pesticides on skylarks

Authors

  • Christopher John Topping,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Landscape Ecology, National Environmental Research Institute, Grenåvej 14, DK-8410 Rønde, Denmark
    • Department of Landscape Ecology, National Environmental Research Institute, Grenåvej 14, DK-8410 Rønde, Denmark
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  • Peter Odderskær

    1. Department of Landscape Ecology, National Environmental Research Institute, Grenåvej 14, DK-8410 Rønde, Denmark
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  • Presented at the SETAC-Europe Meeting, Vienna, Austria, May 12–16, 2002.

Abstract

Spatio-temporal factors strongly influence the population dynamics of animals; thus there have been calls to integrate these factors in environmental impact assessment of toxic compounds. To date, methodological difficulties have probably prevented this union. However, new modeling techniques that could help are available. This paper presents the construction and application of an agent-based simulation model of skylarks in agricultural landscapes and its use to assess the impact of pesticides relative to changes in landscape structure and mortality assumptions. Simulations indicated that pesticides had a negative impact on skylark population size. The annual reduction in numbers was variable and depended primarily upon migration mortality and an interaction between weather and pesticides. Altering landscape structure, crop diversity, or migration mortality assumptions resulted in a population change of approximately 37%, compared to a mean of 4% for pesticides. It was concluded that factors other than pesticides are likely to be limiting skylark numbers in most landscapes. This study demonstrates the importance of modeling the interactions between spatio-temporal environmental factors and the study organisms. Agent-based models (ABMs) are able to extract these relationships as emergent properties of their mechanistic nature. Therefore, we recommend the use of ABM models in future regulatory assessment of pesticides.

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