Mechanistic modelling for ecotoxicology and ecology

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Critical evaluation of toxicological and ecological effect models for risk assessment of plant protection products


German Environmental Protection Agency (UBA / BMUB)
2015-2018 (extended to 2019)
Project leader
UFZ, Leipzig, Germany (Prof. Dr. Matthias Liess)


Environmental risk assessment (ERA) of plant protection products is carried out in a tiered process. Beside experimental refinement options to address the risk for non-target organisms identified at lower tiers (e.g. tests with modified exposure, more complex community studies such as micro-/mesocosm studies or field trials), mechanistic effect models have been increasingly submitted to authorities during the last years. Compared to experimental field studies, models are relatively inexpensive and can depict effects or scenarios that would be difficult to investigate in the field. Modeling has been identified as an appropriate methodology for "higher tier" refined risk assessment in the EFSA Opinion on Protection Goals (EFSA, 2010) as well as in various SETAC workshops. Despite the uncontested potential of this approach to address important issues in the risk assessment of pesticides, and despite the use of these models in research science, their implementation in the environmental risk assessment of PPP implies an evaluation of their quality and uncertainty in the identification and prediction of risks. For this, the relevant mechanisms that affect the sensitivity of different biological organization levels need to be known and then considered in the model. To generate confidence in the model predictions, the models (and each model application) must be evaluated using a set of quality criteria, prior to application in ERA. This allows risk assessors to weight the results of a model analysis in comparison with other lines of evidence. In a project funded by the German Ministry of Environment, Nature conservation, Building and Nuclear safety (BMUB), a critical evaluation of the suitability of effect models for their use into ERA is performed. 

My role

Contribute to model review and evaluation, with specific focus on models at the individual level.

Output: Publications (as first or co-author)

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Output: Presentations and posters (as presenter and as contributor)

  • Evaluation of effect models in the environmental risk assessment of plant protection products. Poster presented at the 27th SETAC Europe conference in Brussel, Belgium. 7-11 May 2017. Abstract, handout.
  • Critical evaluation of population models for the environmental risk assessment of plant protection products. Platform presentation by Dr. Jeremias Becker at the at the 29th SETAC Europe conference in Helsinki, Finland, 26-30 May 2019.
  • Individual-level effects . GUTS & DEBtox. Presentation at the symposium “Evaluation of toxicological and ecological effect models for risk assessment of plant protection products.” UBA, Berlin, Germany, 19-20 September 2019.
  • Main outcomes of the symposium “Evaluation of toxicological and ecological effect models for risk assessment of Plant Protection Products.” Duquesne S, J Becker, T Jager, S Kramer-Schadt, M Liess, S Pieper, M Sole and S Matezki. Poster presentation for the 31st SETAC Europe conference in virtual space, 3-6 May 2021.
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Related publications (as first or co-author)

  • Jager T (2016). Predicting environmental risk: a road map for the future. J. Toxicol. Environ. Health. 79(13-15):572-584. (if you do not have access, email me to receive a version of the paper).
  • Jager T and R Ashauer (2018). How to evaluate the quality of toxicokinetic-toxicodynamic models in the context of environmental risk assessment. IEAM 14(5):604-614.

Related presentations (as presenter and as contributor)

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