Potential impact of chemical stress on freshwater invertebrates : A sensitivity assessment on continental and national scale based on distribution patterns, biological traits, and relatedness.

Berg, Sanne J.P. Van den; Rendal, Cecilie; Focks, Andreas; Butler, Emma; Peeters, Edwin T.H.M.; Laender, Frederik De; Brink, Paul J. Van den


Current chemical risk assessment approaches rely on a standard suite of test species to assess toxicity to environmental species. Assessment factors are used to extrapolate from single species to communities and ecosystem effects. This approach is pragmatic, but lacks resolution in biological and environmental parameters. Novel modelling approaches can help improve the biological resolution of assessments by using mechanistic information to identify priority species and priority regions that are potentially most impacted by chemical stressors. In this study we developed predictive sensitivity models by combining species-specific information on acute chemical sensitivity (LC50 and EC50), traits, and taxonomic relatedness. These models were applied at two spatial scales to reveal spatial differences in the sensitivity of species assemblages towards two chemical modes of action (MOA): narcosis and acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibition. We found that on a relative scale, 46% and 33% of European species were ranked as more sensitive towards narcosis and AChE inhibition, respectively. These more sensitive species were distributed with higher occurrences in the south and north-eastern regions, reflecting known continental patterns of endemic macroinvertebrate biodiversity. We found contradicting sensitivity patterns depending on the MOA for UK scenarios, with more species displaying relative sensitivity to narcotic MOA in north and north-western regions, and more species with relative sensitivity to AChE inhibition MOA in south and south-western regions. Overall, we identified hotspots of species sensitive to chemical stressors at two spatial scales, and discuss data gaps and crucial technological advances required for the successful application of the proposed methodology to invertebrate scenarios, which remain underrepresented in global conservation priorities.