EcoRisk Solutions Ltd.

Norwich, United Kingdom

EcoRisk Solutions Ltd.

Norwich, United Kingdom
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Reed M.,Chemicals Regulation Directorate | Alvarez T.,EcoRisk Solutions Ltd. | Chelinho S.,University of Coimbra | Forbes V.,University of Nebraska - Lincoln | And 5 more authors.
Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management | Year: 2016

Current risk assessment methods for measuring the toxicity of plant protection products (PPPs) on soil invertebrates use standardized laboratory conditions to determine acute effects on mortality and sublethal effects on reproduction. If an unacceptable risk is identified at the lower tier, population-level effects are assessed using semifield and field trials at a higher tier because modeling methods for extrapolating available lower-tier information to population effects have not yet been implemented. Field trials are expensive, time consuming, and cannot be applied to variable landscape scenarios. Mechanistic modeling of the toxicological effects of PPPs on individuals and their responses combined with simulation of population-level response shows great potential in fulfilling such a need, aiding ecologically informed extrapolation. Here, we introduce and demonstrate the potential of 2 population models for ubiquitous soil invertebrates (collembolans and earthworms) as refinement options in current risk assessment. Both are spatially explicit agent-based models (ABMs), incorporating individual and landscape variability. The models were used to provide refined risk assessments for different application scenarios of a hypothetical pesticide applied to potato crops (full-field spray onto the soil surface [termed "overall"], in-furrow, and soil-incorporated pesticide applications). In the refined risk assessment, the population models suggest that soil invertebrate populations would likely recover within 1 year after pesticide application, regardless of application method. The population modeling for both soil organisms also illustrated that a lower predicted average environmental concentration in soil (PECsoil) could potentially lead to greater effects at the population level, depending on the spatial heterogeneity of the pesticide and the behavior of the soil organisms. Population-level effects of spatial-temporal variations in exposure were elucidated in the refined risk assessment, using ABMs and population-level endpoints while yielding outputs that directly address the protection goals. We recommend choosing model outputs that are closely related to specific protection goals, using available toxicity data and accepted fate models to the extent possible in parameterizing models to minimize additional data needs and testing, evaluating, and documenting models following recent guidance. © 2015 SETAC.


Johnston A.S.A.,University of Reading | Holmstrup M.,University of Aarhus | Hodson M.E.,University of York | Thorbek P.,Syngenta | And 2 more authors.
Applied Soil Ecology | Year: 2014

Earthworms are significant ecosystem engineers and are an important component of the diet of many vertebrates and invertebrates, so the ability to predict their distribution and abundance would have wide application in ecology, conservation and land management. Earthworm viability is known to be affected by the availability and quality of food resources, soil water conditions and temperature, but has not yet been modelled mechanistically to link effects on individuals to field population responses. Here we present a novel model capable of predicting the effects of land management and environmental conditions on the distribution and abundance of Aporrectodea caliginosa, the dominant earthworm species in agroecosystems. Our process-based approach uses individual based modelling (IBM), in which each individual has its own energy budget. Individual earthworm energy budgets follow established principles of physiological ecology and are parameterised for A. caliginosa from experimental measurements under optimal conditions. Under suboptimal conditions (e.g. food limitation, low soil temperatures and water contents) reproduction is prioritised over growth. Good model agreement to independent laboratory data on individual cocoon production and growth of body mass, under variable feeding and temperature conditions support our representation of A. caliginosa physiology through energy budgets. Our mechanistic model is able to accurately predict A. caliginosa distribution and abundance in spatially heterogeneous soil profiles representative of field study conditions. Essential here is the explicit modelling of earthworm behaviour in the soil profile. Local earthworm movement responds to a trade-off between food availability and soil water conditions, and this determines the spatiotemporal distribution of the population in the soil profile. Importantly, multiple environmental variables can be manipulated simultaneously in the model to explore earthworm population exposure and effects to combinations of stressors. Potential applications include prediction of the population-level effects of pesticides and changes in soil management e.g. conservation tillage and climate change. © 2014 The Authors.


PubMed | Integral Consulting Inc., University of Coimbra, Roskilde University, Chemicals Regulation Directorate and 4 more.
Type: Journal Article | Journal: Integrated environmental assessment and management | Year: 2016

Current risk assessment methods for measuring the toxicity of plant protection products (PPPs) on soil invertebrates use standardized laboratory conditions to determine acute effects on mortality and sublethal effects on reproduction. If an unacceptable risk is identified at the lower tier, population-level effects are assessed using semifield and field trials at a higher tier because modeling methods for extrapolating available lower-tier information to population effects have not yet been implemented. Field trials are expensive, time consuming, and cannot be applied to variable landscape scenarios. Mechanistic modeling of the toxicological effects of PPPs on individuals and their responses combined with simulation of population-level response shows great potential in fulfilling such a need, aiding ecologically informed extrapolation. Here, we introduce and demonstrate the potential of 2 population models for ubiquitous soil invertebrates (collembolans and earthworms) as refinement options in current risk assessment. Both are spatially explicit agent-based models (ABMs), incorporating individual and landscape variability. The models were used to provide refined risk assessments for different application scenarios of a hypothetical pesticide applied to potato crops (full-field spray onto the soil surface [termed overall], in-furrow, and soil-incorporated pesticide applications). In the refined risk assessment, the population models suggest that soil invertebrate populations would likely recover within 1 year after pesticide application, regardless of application method. The population modeling for both soil organisms also illustrated that a lower predicted average environmental concentration in soil (PECsoil) could potentially lead to greater effects at the population level, depending on the spatial heterogeneity of the pesticide and the behavior of the soil organisms. Population-level effects of spatial-temporal variations in exposure were elucidated in the refined risk assessment, using ABMs and population-level endpoints while yielding outputs that directly address the protection goals. We recommend choosing model outputs that are closely related to specific protection goals, using available toxicity data and accepted fate models to the extent possible in parameterizing models to minimize additional data needs and testing, evaluating, and documenting models following recent guidance.


Johnston A.S.A.,University of Reading | Sibly R.M.,University of Reading | Hodson M.E.,University of York | Alvarez T.,EcoRisk Solutions Ltd. | Thorbek P.,Syngenta
Journal of Applied Ecology | Year: 2015

There is little consensus on how agriculture will meet future food demands sustainably. Soils and their biota play a crucial role by mediating ecosystem services that support agricultural productivity. However, a multitude of site-specific environmental factors and management practices interact to affect the ability of soil biota to perform vital functions, confounding the interpretation of results from experimental approaches. Insights can be gained through models, which integrate the physiological, biological and ecological mechanisms underpinning soil functions. We present a powerful modelling approach for predicting how agricultural management practices (pesticide applications and tillage) affect soil functioning through earthworm populations. By combining energy budgets and individual-based simulation models, and integrating key behavioural and ecological drivers, we accurately predict population responses to pesticide applications in different climatic conditions. We use the model to analyse the ecological consequences of different weed management practices. Our results demonstrate that an important link between agricultural management (herbicide applications and zero, reduced and conventional tillage) and earthworms is the maintenance of soil organic matter (SOM). We show how zero and reduced tillage practices can increase crop yields while preserving natural ecosystem functions. This demonstrates how management practices which aim to sustain agricultural productivity should account for their effects on earthworm populations, as their proliferation stimulates agricultural productivity. Synthesis and applications. Our results indicate that conventional tillage practices have longer term effects on soil biota than pesticide control, if the pesticide has a short dissipation time. The risk of earthworm populations becoming exposed to toxic pesticides will be reduced under dry soil conditions. Similarly, an increase in soil organic matter could increase the recovery rate of earthworm populations. However, effects are not necessarily additive and the impact of different management practices on earthworms depends on their timing and the prevailing environmental conditions. Our model can be used to determine which combinations of crop management practices and climatic conditions pose least overall risk to earthworm populations. Linking our model mechanistically to crop yield models would aid the optimization of crop management systems by exploring the trade-off between different ecosystem services. Our results indicate that conventional tillage practices have longer term effects on soil biota than pesticide control, if the pesticide has a short dissipation time. The risk of earthworm populations becoming exposed to toxic pesticides will be reduced under dry soil conditions. Similarly, an increase in soil organic matter could increase the recovery rate of earthworm populations. However, effects are not necessarily additive and the impact of different management practices on earthworms depends on their timing and the prevailing environmental conditions. Our model can be used to determine which combinations of crop management practices and climatic conditions pose least overall risk to earthworm populations. Linking our model mechanistically to crop yield models would aid the optimization of crop management systems by exploring the trade-off between different ecosystem services. © 2015 British Ecological Society.


Johnston A.S.A.,University of Reading | Hodson M.E.,University of York | Thorbek P.,Syngenta | Alvarez T.,EcoRisk Solutions Ltd. | Sibly R.M.,University of Reading
Ecological Modelling | Year: 2014

Earthworms are important organisms in soil communities and so are used as model organisms in environmental risk assessments of chemicals. However current risk assessments of soil invertebrates are based on short-term laboratory studies, of limited ecological relevance, supplemented if necessary by site-specific field trials, which sometimes are challenging to apply across the whole agricultural landscape. Here, we investigate whether population responses to environmental stressors and pesticide exposure can be accurately predicted by combining energy budget and agent-based models (ABMs), based on knowledge of how individuals respond to their local circumstances. A simple energy budget model was implemented within each earthworm Eisenia fetida in the ABM, based on a priori parameter estimates. From broadly accepted physiological principles, simple algorithms specify how energy acquisition and expenditure drive life cycle processes. Each individual allocates energy between maintenance, growth and/or reproduction under varying conditions of food density, soil temperature and soil moisture. When simulating published experiments, good model fits were obtained to experimental data on individual growth, reproduction and starvation. Using the energy budget model as a platform we developed methods to identify which of the physiological parameters in the energy budget model (rates of ingestion, maintenance, growth or reproduction) are primarily affected by pesticide applications, producing four hypotheses about how toxicity acts. We tested these hypotheses by comparing model outputs with published toxicity data on the effects of copper oxychloride and chlorpyrifos on E. fetida. Both growth and reproduction were directly affected in experiments in which sufficient food was provided, whilst maintenance was targeted under food limitation. Although we only incorporate toxic effects at the individual level we show how ABMs can readily extrapolate to larger scales by providing good model fits to field population data. The ability of the presented model to fit the available field and laboratory data for E. fetida demonstrates the promise of the agent-based approach in ecology, by showing how biological knowledge can be used to make ecological inferences. Further work is required to extend the approach to populations of more ecologically relevant species studied at the field scale. Such a model could help extrapolate from laboratory to field conditions and from one set of field conditions to another or from species to species. © 2013.


PubMed | University of York, EcoRisk Solutions Ltd., Syngenta and University of Reading
Type: | Journal: Ecological modelling | Year: 2015

Earthworms are important organisms in soil communities and so are used as model organisms in environmental risk assessments of chemicals. However current risk assessments of soil invertebrates are based on short-term laboratory studies, of limited ecological relevance, supplemented if necessary by site-specific field trials, which sometimes are challenging to apply across the whole agricultural landscape. Here, we investigate whether population responses to environmental stressors and pesticide exposure can be accurately predicted by combining energy budget and agent-based models (ABMs), based on knowledge of how individuals respond to their local circumstances. A simple energy budget model was implemented within each earthworm

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