This course introduces the fields of ecotoxicology and the different steps in ecological risk assessment. It gives insight in (1) the factors that determine the distribution and mobility of chemicals in the environment. For instance variables such as the pH, salt and temperature or the role of bacteria in redox processes are factors which will have a considerable influence on metal behaviour in soils or sediments. The next step (2) is understanding how contaminants move from the environment into organisms (bioaccumulation). Then (3) processes which result in internal deactivation will be explained to finally gain knowledge on (4) effects of chemicals on biota. These effects and the general risk assessments procedures are explored from sub-organismal level up to higher levels of organisation (individuals, populations, communities, ecosystems). In addition a general introduction on related legislation and remediation techniques is given.
Several examples of topics that will be discussed include:
- The effects of gaseous air pollution on plants; methods for investigating visible and invisible toxic effects, including the use of indicator and accumulator plants in biomonitoring.
- The effects of metal contamination on biota; diagnosis; how biota differ in resistance and tolerance; methods to evaluate, reduce and remedy effects; case studies.
- Interactions between bacteria and metals, bacteria and xenobiotics, bacteria and stress situation and bacterial monitoring in the environment.
- Ecological engineering for improvement of the environmental quality.
- The use of ecological engineering, i.e. techniques that stimulate biological processes that naturally remove or reduce the effects of pollutants, at low cost and without disturbing habitats; case studies for sediments, ground and surface water.
- The development of water quality guidelines under the EU Water Framework Directive.