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Wildlife ecological risk assessment in the 21st century: Promising technologies to assess toxicological effects

July 7, 2023

Despite advances in toxicity testing and development of new approach methodologies (NAMs) for hazard assessment, the ecological risk assessment (ERA) framework for terrestrial wildlife (i.e., air-breathing amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals) has remained unchanged for decades. While survival, growth, and reproductive endpoints derived from whole animal toxicity tests are central to hazard assessment, non-standard measures of biological effects at multiple levels of biological organization (e.g., molecular, cellular, tissue, organ, organism, population, community, ecosystem) have potential to enhance the relevance of prospective and retrospective wildlife ERAs. Other factors (e.g., indirect effects of contaminants on food supplies and infectious disease processes) are influenced by toxicants at individual, population, and community levels, and need to be factored into chemically-based risk assessments to enhance the “eco” component of ERAs. Regulatory and logistical challenges often relegate such non-standard endpoints and indirect effects to post-registration evaluations of pesticides and industrial chemicals, and contaminated site evaluations. While NAMs are being developed, to date their applications in ERAs focused on wildlife have been limited. No single magic tool or model will address all uncertainties in hazard assessment. Modernizing wildlife ERAs will likely entail combinations of laboratory and field-derived data at multiple levels of biological organization, knowledge collection solutions (e.g., systematic review, adverse outcome pathway frameworks), and inferential methods that facilitate integrations and risk estimations focused on species, populations, interspecific extrapolations, and ecosystem services modeling, with less dependence on whole animal data and simple hazard ratios.

Publication Year 2024
Title Wildlife ecological risk assessment in the 21st century: Promising technologies to assess toxicological effects
DOI 10.1002/ieam.4806
Authors Barnett A. Rattner, Thomas G. Bean, Val R. Beasley, Philippe Berny, Karen M. Eisenreich, John E. Elliott, Margaret L. Eng, Phyllis C. Fuchsman, Mason D. King, Rafael Mateo Soria, Carolyn B. Meyer, Jason M. O’Brien, Christopher J. Salice
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management
Index ID 70246636
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Eastern Ecological Science Center