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The aim of the environmental risk assessment of chemicals is the prevention of unacceptable adverse effects on the environment. Therefore, the risk assessment for in-soil organisms, such as earthworms, is based on two key elements: the exposure assessment and the effect assessment. In the current risk assessment scheme, these two elements are not linked. While for the exposure assessment, advanced exposure models can take the spatial and temporal scale of substances into account, the effect assessment in the lower tiers considers only a limited temporal and spatial variability. However, for soil organisms, such as earthworms, those scales play a significant role as species move through the soil in response to environmental factors. To overcome this gap, we propose a conceptual integration of pesticide exposure, ecology, and toxicological effects on earthworms using a modular modeling approach. An essential part of this modular approach is the environment module, which utilizes exposure models to provide spatially and temporally explicit information on environmental variables (e.g., temperature, moisture, organic matter content) and chemical concentrations. The behavior module uses this information and simulates the feeding and movement of different earthworm species using a trait-based approach. The resulting exposure can be processed by a toxicokinetic-toxicodynamic (TKTD) module. TKTD models are particularly suitable to make effect predictions for time-variable exposure situations as they include the processes of uptake, elimination, internal distribution, and biotransformation of chemicals and link the internal concentration to an effect at the organism level. The population module incorporates existing population models of different earthworm species. The modular approach is illustrated using a case study with an insecticide. Our results emphasize that using a modular model approach will facilitate the integration of exposure and effects and thus enhance the risk assessment of soil organisms.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: The Science of the total environment
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