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Evaluation of current capabilities in assessing ecological risks suggests several avenues for advancing this dynamic and evolving discipline. Risk assessors should make every effort to incorporate state-of-the-art ecological understanding in identifying endpoints for assessments and in developing assessment tools. Efforts must increase in constructing, maintaining, and providing efficient access to electronic data bases for ecological and toxicological parameter values. Dose-response data for wildlife are often lacking, especially for chemicals other than pesticides. Innovative exposure-response assays directed at obtaining process-level data for extrapolations to field conditions are urgently needed. Critical assessment of current capabilities in ecological and environmental modeling can be used to effectively design the next generation of models for ecological risk analysis. A sequence of upwardly scaled models with additional emphasis on developing watershed or basin level risk estimation capabilities would advance the discipline. Linking geographic information systems with dynamic risk models will permit more effective site-specific assessment. Risk assessment should be developed in the context of formal decision theory. Most important, the difficult societal questions concerning population, resource demands, environmental quality, and sustainability must be addressed if ecological risk assessments are to have significant meaning.
ecological risk assessment, critical issues, data needs, modeling capabilities, environmental quality
Vice-president and Director, SENES Oak Ridge, Inc.,Center for Risk Analysis, Oak Ridge, TN
Ecotoxicology Section Head, Exxon Biomedical Sciences, NJ