PS 22-100 - Incorporating ecologically relevant habitat and demographic data in assessment of contaminant risk to wildlife

Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Exhibit Hall 3, Austin Convention Center
Jill A. Awkerman, Gulf Ecology Division, US EPA, Gulf Breeze, FL, Sandy Raimondo, Gulf Ecology Division, U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, Gulf Breeze, FL and Mace G. Barron, Gulf Ecology Division, Office of Research and Development, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Gulf Breeze, FL

Evaluating population-level effects of contamination on wildlife requires specific information on habitat quality, species distribution, and contaminant concentration. Establishing broadly applicable thresholds for risk assessment involves an understanding of the applicability of population models to similar systems and species. We developed a habitat suitability model for a model toxicological fish species, the sheepshead minnow (Cyprinodon variegatus), using data collected over four sampling periods throughout 2007-2008 in Pensacola Bay, Florida.  Spatial data layers of oil contamination and habitat model variables were then created for Barataria Bay, Louisiana following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. We incorporated site- and life-stage-specific effects into a spatially explicit population model to predict distribution of sheepshead minnows throughout the affected area and simulate changes in small estuarine fish species abundance and distribution.  


Evaluation of the habitat model using data from other regional areas demonstrated inter-estuarine variability in available habitat and sheepshead minnow distribution.  Localized population impacts emphasize the relative importance of identifying chronic effects of oil exposure to estuarine fish species.

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