Water, Air, & Soil Pollution

, Volume 90, Issue 1, pp 71–82

Inferring ecological risk from toxicity bioassays

  • S. Ferson
  • L. R. Ginzburg
  • R. A. Goldstein

DOI: 10.1007/BF00619269

Cite this article as:
Ferson, S., Ginzburg, L.R. & Goldstein, R.A. Water Air Soil Pollut (1996) 90: 71. doi:10.1007/BF00619269


Results from toxicological bioassays can express the likely impact of environmental contamination on biochemical function, histopathology, development, reproduction and survivorship. However, justifying environmental regulatory decisions and management plans requires predictions of the consequent effects on ecological populations and communities. Although extrapolating the results of toxicity bioassays to potential effects on the ecosystem may be beyond the current scientific capacity of ecology, it is possible to make detailed forecasts at the level of a population. We give examples in which toxicological impacts are either magnified or diminished by population-dynamic phenomena and argue that ecological risk assessments should be conducted at a level no lower than the population. Although methods recently proposed by EPA acknowledge that ecological risk evaluations should reflect population-level effects, they adopt approaches from human health risk analysis that focus on individuals.


ecological risk ecotoxicology populations ecosystems bioassays population-level endpoints 

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Puhlishers 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. Ferson
    • 1
  • L. R. Ginzburg
    • 2
  • R. A. Goldstein
    • 3
  1. 1.Applied BionuthematicsSetauketUSA
  2. 2.Ecology and EvolutionSUNY at Stony BrookStony BrookUSA
  3. 3.Electric Power Research InstitutePalo AltoUSA

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