Population-level Assessment of Risks of Pesticides to Birds and Mammals in the UK
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It is generally acknowledged that population-level assessments provide a better measure of response to toxicants than assessments of individual-level effects. Population-level assessments generally require the use of models to integrate potentially complex data about the effects of toxicants on life-history traits, and to provide a relevant measure of ecological impact. Building on excellent earlier reviews we here briefly outline the modelling options in population-level risk assessment. Modelling is used to calculate population endpoints from available data, which is often about individual life histories, the ways that individuals interact with each other, the environment and other species, and the ways individuals are affected by pesticides. As population endpoints, we recommend the use of population abundance, population growth rate, and the chance of population persistence. We recommend two types of model: simple life-history models distinguishing two life-history stages, juveniles and adults; and spatially-explicit individual-based landscape models. Life-history models are very quick to set up and run, and they provide a great deal of insight. At the other extreme, individual-based landscape models provide the greatest verisimilitude, albeit at the cost of greatly increased complexity. We conclude with a discussion of the implications of the severe problems of parameterising models.