Species traits as predictors for intrinsic sensitivity of aquatic invertebrates to the insecticide chlorpyrifos

M.N. Rubach, D.J. Baird, M.C. Boerwinkel, S.J. Maund, I. Roessink, P.J. van den Brink

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

71 Citations (Scopus)


Ecological risk assessment (ERA) has followed a taxonomy-based approach, making the assumption that related species will show similar sensitivity to toxicants, and using safety factors or species sensitivity distributions to extrapolate from tested to untested species. In ecology it has become apparent that taxonomic approaches may have limitations for the description and understanding of species assemblages in nature. Therefore it has been proposed that the inclusion of species traits in ERA could provide a useful and alternative description of the systems under investigation. At the same time, there is a growing recognition that the use of mechanistic approaches in ERA, including conceptual and quantitative models, may improve predictive and extrapolative power. Purposefully linking traits with mechanistic effect models could add value to taxonomy-based ERA by improving our understanding of how structural and functional system facets may facilitate inter-species extrapolation. Here, we explore whether and in what ways traits can be linked purposefully to mechanistic effect models to predict intrinsic sensitivity using available data on the acute sensitivity and toxicokinetics of a range of freshwater arthropods exposed to chlorpyrifos. The results of a quantitative linking of seven different endpoints and twelve traits demonstrate that while quantitative links between traits and/or trait combinations and process based (toxicokinetic) model parameters can be established, the use of simple traits to predict classical sensitivity endpoints yields little insight. Remarkably, neither of the standard sensitivity values, i.e. the LC50 or EC50, showed a strong correlation with traits. Future research in this area should include a quantitative linking of toxicodynamic parameter estimations and physiological traits, and requires further consideration of how mechanistic trait-process/parameter links can be used for prediction of intrinsic sensitivity across species for different substances in ERA.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2088-2101
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • ecological risk-assessment
  • fresh-water arthropods
  • daphnia-magna
  • toxicity assessment
  • organic-chemicals
  • biological traits
  • model
  • exposure
  • bioconcentration
  • bioaccumulation


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