Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology

, Volume 49, Issue 4, pp 546-558

First online:

Acute Toxicity Value Extrapolation with Fish and Aquatic Invertebrates

  • Denny R. BucklerAffiliated withU.S. Geological Survey, Columbia Environmental Research Center Email author 
  • , Foster L. MayerAffiliated withNational Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory, Gulf Ecology Division, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • , Mark R. EllersieckAffiliated withAgricultural Experiment Station, University of Missouri
  • , Amha AsfawAffiliated withAgricultural Experiment Station, University of Missouri

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Assessment of risk posed by an environmental contaminant to an aquatic community requires estimation of both its magnitude of occurrence (exposure) and its ability to cause harm (effects). Our ability to estimate effects is often hindered by limited toxicological information. As a result, resource managers and environmental regulators are often faced with the need to extrapolate across taxonomic groups in order to protect the more sensitive members of the aquatic community. The goals of this effort were to 1) compile and organize an extensive body of acute toxicity data, 2) characterize the distribution of toxicant sensitivity across taxa and species, and 3) evaluate the utility of toxicity extrapolation methods based upon sensitivity relations among species and chemicals. Although the analysis encompassed a wide range of toxicants and species, pesticides and freshwater fish and invertebrates were emphasized as a reflection of available data. Although it is obviously desirable to have high-quality acute toxicity values for as many species as possible, the results of this effort allow for better use of available information for predicting the sensitivity of untested species to environmental contaminants. A software program entitled “Ecological Risk Analysis” (ERA) was developed that predicts toxicity values for sensitive members of the aquatic community using species sensitivity distributions. Of several methods evaluated, the ERA program used with minimum data sets comprising acute toxicity values for rainbow trout, bluegill, daphnia, and mysids provided the most satisfactory predictions with the least amount of data. However, if predictions must be made using data for a single species, the most satisfactory results were obtained with extrapolation factors developed for rainbow trout (0.412), bluegill (0.331), or scud (0.041). Although many specific exceptions occur, our results also support the conventional wisdom that invertebrates are generally more sensitive to contaminants than fish are.