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Aquatic ecotoxicology and ecological risk assessment

Ecotoxicology is a multidisciplinar science that aims to assess how the interaction between pollutants and environmental impact on ecosystems, taking into account the capacity of individuals, populations and communities to be affected and recover from any type of toxic stress. The ecological risk assessment of pollutants requires a preliminary study of the emission and transport of contaminants in the environment and exposure to which living organisms can be subjected. Similarly, laboratory and/or field experiments help assess which is the toxic effect caused by different pollutants and exposure patterns. Finally, the results of both studies are combined to make an estimate of the probability that ecosystems are altered by the use of potentially toxic substances.

Ecotoxicology and environmental risk assessment are applied in various fields:

  • Registration and evaluation of chemicals
  • Environmental monitoring and assessment of the ecological status of water
  • Calculation of the ecological risk and development of predictive models

EcotoxicologíaIn IMDEA Water we are specialists in scientific consultancy and the environmental risk assessment of pollutants. We have a multidisciplinary team capable of performing:

  • Measurement of contaminants in samples of water, soil and sediment.
  • Toxicity tests with aquatic organisms at the individual, population and community level (using microcosm).
  • Environmental monitoring of invertebrates and other aquatic organisms, and evaluation of the ecological status of waters.
  • Calculating the ecological risk of contaminants through the use of predictive exposure models and ecological models.
  • Advice on the design of ecotoxicological experiments and planning dossiers for registration and evaluation of contaminants.

TAPASTools for Assessment and Planning of Aquaculture Sustainability

Aquaculture is one of five sectors in the EU's Blue Growth Strategy, aimed at harnessing untapped potential for food production and jobs whilst focusing on environmental sustainability. The H2020 TAPAS project led by the University of Stirling (UK) and formed by 15 partners from 10 European countries will address this challenge by supporting member states to establish a coherent and efficient regulatory framework aimed at sustainable growth. TAPAS will use a requirements analysis to evaluate existing regulatory and licensing frameworks across the EU, taking account of the range of production environments and specificities and emerging approaches such as offshore technologies, integrated multi-trophic aquaculture, and integration with other sectors. TAPAS will propose new, flexible approaches to open methods of coordination, working to unified, common standards. TAPAS will also evaluate existing tools for economic assessment of aquaculture sustainability affecting sectoral growth. TAPAS will critically evaluate the capabilities and verification level of existing ecosystem planning tools and will develop new approaches for evaluation of carrying capacities, environmental impact and future risk. TAPAS will improve existing and develop new models for far- and near-field environmental assessment providing better monitoring, observation, forecasting and early warning technologies. The innovative methodologies and components emerging from TAPAS will be integrated in an Aquaculture Sustainability Toolbox complemented by a decision support system to support the development and implementation of coastal and marine spatial planning enabling less costly, more transparent and more efficient licensing. Within the TAPAS project, the Ecotoxicology group of the IMDEA Water Institute will be particularly involved in the ecotoxicological risk assessment of potentially toxic chemicals. The main research tasks will be:

  • improvement of environmental modelling tools
  • development of appropriate environmental quality standards
  • ecotoxicological risk assessment of chemicals in several freshwater and marine aquaculture production scenarios.

More information: http://tapas-h2020.eu/​LIFE





Impacts of Microplastics in Agrosystems and Stream EnvironmentsIMPASSE

There is evidence to suggest that each year in North America, farmed soils are exposed to up to 300,000 tonnes of MPs, which are less than 5mm in size. It is unknown whether these MPs have any direct or indirect effects on agrosystems or the freshwater environment. A primary source of MPs to agrosystems is thought to be biosolids, grey water, or sludge, which are an important source of fertiliser. It is important to foster a better understanding of any potential effects of MPs, and to develop shared management solutions. The aim of IMPASSE project is to find resolutions which will safeguard agricultural sustainability, economic goals, and human and animal health. The project will be overseen by the Norwegian Institute for Water Research and is run in collaboration with three additional institutions across Europe (the Swedish University of Agriculture, the Vrije University of Amsterdam, and IMDEA-Water in Spain) and one Canadian (Trent University, Toronto). It consists of 5 inter-connected work packages which look at exposure (WP1), impacts (WP2), decision support tools (WP3), stakeholder engagement (WP4) and scenario assessment (WP5).WATER JPI​ 

This project, with reference PCIN-2017-016, is financed by the Ministry of Economy, Industry and Competitiveness.






Scientific & technical offer: Aquatic ecotoxicology and ecological risk assessment

Biology and Microbiology LabOutdoor mesocosm facilities