Inferring Population-Level Significance from Individual-Level Effects: An Extrapolation from Fisheries Science to Ecotoxicology

    Published: Jan 1988

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    This paper discusses the concepts and operational definitions of significance used in fisheries management and environmental impact assessment, and demonstrates their applicability to contaminant hazard assessment. Methods of linking chronic test data to models commonly used in fisheries assessments are demonstrated, using the Chesapeake Bay striped bass population as a representative species of regulatory interest. These models can (1) integrate concentration-response functions for the separate components of life cycle chronic tests into a single measure of population-level effects, and (2) translate experimental variability into uncertainty concerning consequences of contaminant exposure. We compared population-level risk functions derived from five life-cycle toxicity data sets to maximum acceptable toxicant concentrations (MATCs) derived from the same five data sets. The comparison showed the MATC to be an inadequate measure of significant population-level effects because (1) several life stages frequently contribute to the effect associated with a given exposure, and (2) test responses such as fecundity, which are both highly sensitive and highly variable, are systematically undervalued in the calculation of the MATC. We discuss several approaches for enriching ecotoxicology through the use of population models and other methods outside the current domain of the field.


    risk assessment, hazard assessment, population models, chronic toxicity, aquatic toxicology

    Author Information:

    Barnthouse, LW
    Research staff members, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN

    Suter, GW
    Research staff members, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN

    Rosen, AE
    Research staff members, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN

    Committee/Subcommittee: E47.01

    DOI: 10.1520/STP10296S

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