Species sensitivity distributions revisited: A critical appraisal

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

168 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

We revisit the assumptions associated with the derivation and application of species sensitivity distributions (SSDs). Our questions are (1) Do SSDs clarify or obscure the setting of ecological effects thresholds for risk assessment? and (2) Do SSDs reduce or introduce uncertainty into risk assessment? Our conclusions are that if we could determine a community sensitivity distribution, this would provide a better estimate of an ecologically relevant effects threshold and therefore be an improvement for risk assessment. However, the distributions generated are typically based on haphazard collections of species and endpoints and by adjusting these to reflect more realistic trophic structures we show that effects thresholds can be shifted but in a direction and to an extent that is not predictable. Despite claims that the SSD approach uses all available data to assess effects, we demonstrate that in certain frequently used applications only a small fraction of the species going into the SSD determine the effects threshold. If the SSD approach is to lead to better risk assessments, improvements are needed in how the theory is put into practice. This requires careful definition of the risk assessment targets and of the species and endpoints selected for use in generating SSDs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)473-492
Number of pages20
JournalHuman and Ecological Risk Assessment
Volume8
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2002

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Risk assessment
risk assessment
Uncertainty
distribution
appraisal
trophic structure
effect

Keywords

  • Application factors
  • Extrapolation
  • Probabilistic methods
  • Risk assessment
  • Uncertainty

Cite this

Species sensitivity distributions revisited : A critical appraisal. / Forbes, Valery E.; Calow, Peter.

In: Human and Ecological Risk Assessment, Vol. 8, No. 3, 01.01.2002, p. 473-492.

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

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