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The trouble with surrogates in environmental risk assessment: a daphniid case study


The use of indicator species to test for environmental stability and functioning is a widespread practice. In aquatic systems, several daphniids (Cladocera: Daphniidae) are commonly used as indicator species; registration of new pesticides are mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency to be accompanied by daphniid toxicity data. This reliance upon a few species to infer ecosystem health and function assumes similar responses to toxicants across species with potentially very different life histories and susceptibility. Incorporating lab-derived life-history data into a simple mathematical model, we explore the reliability of three different daphniid species as surrogates for each other by comparing their responses to reductions in survivorship and fecundity after simulated exposure to toxicants. Our results demonstrate that daphniid species’ responses to toxicant exposure render them poor surrogates for one another, highlighting that caution should be exercised in using a surrogate approach to the use of indicator species in risk assessment.

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Correspondence to John E. Banks.

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Banks, J.E., Ackleh, A.S., Veprauskas, A. et al. The trouble with surrogates in environmental risk assessment: a daphniid case study. Ecotoxicology 28, 62–68 (2019).

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  • Matrix
  • Surrogate species
  • Population model
  • Sublethal effects