Ecological Risk Assessment Methods for Arid Environments

Neptune and Company, Inc. has developed a workshop in ecological risk assessment for arid environments. The evaluation of ecological effects in such environments is often substantially different than assessment for other environments. Such an assessment needs to be technically defensible—a challenging proposal if risk assessment approaches developed for moist habitats are used. For example, standard terrestrial toxicity bioassays are more applicable to mesic sites than arid sites. This full day offering provides an overview of the tools and challenges for performing ecological assessments in arid and semiarid ecosystems and illustrates the overview with examples.

To provide attendees with a more complete understanding of ecological effects characterization in arid environments, this course will: demonstrate the special considerations of these environments under Superfund’s ecological risk assessment (ERA) framework; illustrate conceptual site model and problem formulation development through biotic transport in the desert and bioaccumulation in arid-adapted species; describe how contamination effects in semi-arid soils can be interpreted using standard toxicity tests and using more site-specific biota; consider special needs and management of aquatic resources in arid environments; and, document the strengths and limitations of using arid ecosystem ERAs to support informed environmental decision making in southwestern and western states. This course is specifically designed to enhance the understanding of ERAs that have been or will be conducted in arid environments.

This workshop will provide an overview of the tools and challenges for performing ecological risk assessment (ERA) in arid and semiarid ecosystems.  By covering the common ERA ingredients for any environment, this course is designed for an introductory to intermediate risk assessor level. The guidance on assessing arid ecosystems will benefit more experienced practitioners as well.

To bring a full understanding of ecological effects characterization to the attendees, this course attempts to achieve three major goals:
(1) demonstrate the practical steps of identifying and interpreting ecological effects using a contaminated desert soil example; (2) provide an understanding of the role managers play in improving ERAs through input to the conceptual site model and problem formulation development; and (3) document the strengths and limitations of using arid ecosystem ERAs to support informed environmental decision making in southwestern and western states. Interactive materials to encourage audience involvement are emphasized. Sample topics covered in the workshop include terrestrial toxicity bioassays, population-level assessment tools for arid environments, and assessment of aquatic organisms in arid environments. A workshop notebook with course lectures is provided along with numerous ERA reference materials on CD.  In addition many recent journal articles on workshop topics will be available for review.

This course is targeted towards risk managers—the people who are responsible for the implementation of risk assessments in arid ecosystems. While there are many training courses aimed at ERA practitioners, there are few courses designed for risk managers who must interpret and evaluate the quality of ERAs. This course will allow risk managers to objectively evaluate ERAs performed in arid environments and will provide guidance on data evaluation for characterizing and interpreting ecological effects. Furthermore, this presentation will provide risk managers with an appreciation and understanding of the ERA process as a basis for sound environmental decision making.