Risk assessment of episodic exposures to chemicals should consider both the physiological and the ecological sensitivities of species

Ben J. Kefford, Matthias Liess, Michael St J. Warne, Leon Metzeling, Ralf B. Schäfer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

6 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

In flowing water pollution regularly occurs in short pulses (hours to days). Populations of species affected by pulses have the potential to recover in the absence of further disturbance but recovery rates will vary between species due to resilience (e.g. generation time and dispersal ability) and avoidance traits. Current assessments of the risks of chemicals to community structure - predominantly based on species sensitivity distributions (SSDs) - only consider physiological sensitivity and do not give any consideration as to the rate at which populations will recover. We constructed SSDs of ecologically sensitive and tolerant stream invertebrate assemblages (based on 3 traits previously shown to be important in determining how species relative abundances respond to pesticide toxicity) from south-east Australia and in regions of Finland, Germany and France. There were differences in SSDs of a generic measure of physiological sensitivity to organic chemicals between ecologically sensitive and tolerant species, though these differences were not consistent between the regions studied. We conclude that it is important for community level risk assessments of pulses of chemicals that the ecological sensitivity of the regional species assemblage is considered and discuss several options as to how this could be achieved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213-219
Number of pages7
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Volume441
Early online date6 Nov 2012
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2012
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Biological traits
  • Ecological risk assessment
  • Intermittent pollution
  • Periodic contamination
  • Recovery
  • Stream invertebrates

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution

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