Development and application of computer simulation tools for ecological risk assessment

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15 Scopus citations


Based on a review of available models for ecological risk estimation, most are site-specific and their applications are limited. However, general models, which can be easily adapted to other sites, remain few, in addition, they are simple and associated with significant uncertainties. In this paper, an approach is introduced for an ecological risk assessment (ERA) model that can be modified for site-specific conditions. Using computer simulation as a screening tool for ecological risk assessment can assist environmental managers and policy decision-makers in the planning and implementation of potentially highly focused assessments and remediation, should the ERA dictate the need. The model was integrated with a Windows-based interface and interactive database management system (DBMS) as a user-friendly software package. In addition, based on trophic sources, a food web has been integrated into the framework of the DBMS. In an effort to evaluate the model, a case study was implemented to characterize the effects on an ecosystem of replacing electroplated chromium coatings with sputtered tantalum at U.S. Army Yuma and Aberdeen Proving Grounds. Potential exposure pathways included ingestion, inhalation, and dermal absorption for terrestrial animals; root and foliar uptake for plants; and direct absorption for aquatic species. Overall, results showed that the most significant exposure resulted from molybdenum and hexavalent chromium, which posed higher risks to select aquatic and terrestrial species at both sites. On the other hand, tantalum (with vanadium as the surrogate) resulted in the least risk to all receptors within the studied areas. A sensitivity analysis demonstrated that soil-water distribution coefficients have a significant impact on the results. Based on the results, neither molybdenum nor chromium are recommended as a coating in gun barrels, and further study would be essential to address any affected firing range area. Tantalum is recommended for use, although for those species receiving a slight adverse risk, field investigations that include receptor sampling maybe necessary once soil/sediment and water sampling validates projected concentrations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)311-322
Number of pages12
JournalEnvironmental Modeling and Assessment
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Environmental Science


  • Ecological risk assessment
  • Exposure model
  • Food web
  • Heavy metals


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