The Applicability of Habitat Evaluation Methodologies in Ecological Risk Assessment
Traditionally, ecological risk assessments (ERAs) have emphasized risks to individual organisms or populations of species. Although habitats may be a potential target for chemical stressors, and are considered in the framework for ERAs, the actual use of habitat evaluation methods in this process is limited. Habitats obviously represent an important entity to protect since damaged aquatic and wildlife habitats may be totally irretrievable over a human life span compared to deleterious biochemical and physiological changes which may be reversible within the life cycle of an organism, if exposure is terminated. Habitat methods have been largely used as management tools to evaluate impacts of planned water and land development projects. Habitat evaluation methods represent a structured, systematic and logical approach to determine changes to habitats because they consider important life requisites and environmental variables limiting to species. Their use in the ERA process will provide a means to differentiate habitat changes resulting from physical, chemical and/or biological factors or a combination of such factors. In addition, minimal and optimum habitat suitability can be determined for different habitat variables under different chemical exposure scenarios. The objectives of this paper are to review several available habitat evaluation methods and discuss their use in risk assessment. Particular emphasis is given to USFWS's Habitat Evaluation Procedures (HEPs) and the Instream Flow Incremental Method (IFIM).
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Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: 1998-08-01