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Sci Total Environ. 2010 Aug 15;408(18):3908-17. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2009.11.045. Epub 2009 Dec 14.

Eco-SpaCE: an object-oriented, spatially explicit model to assess the risk of multiple environmental stressors on terrestrial vertebrate populations.

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Department of Environmental Science, Institute for Wetland and Water Research, Radboud University Nijmegen, P.O. Box 9010, 6500 GL Nijmegen, The Netherlands.


Wildlife organisms are exposed to a combination of chemical, biological and physical stressors. Information about the relative impact of each stressor can support management decisions, e.g., by the allocation of resources to counteract those stressors that cause most harm. The present paper introduces Eco-SpaCE; a novel receptor-oriented cumulative exposure model for wildlife species that includes relevant ecological processes such as spatial habitat variation, food web relations, predation, and life history. A case study is presented in which the predicted mortality due to cadmium contamination is compared with the predicted mortality due to flooding, starvation, and predation for three small mammal species (Wood mouse, Common vole, and European mole) and a predator (Little owl) living in a lowland floodplain along the river Rhine in The Netherlands. Results indicated that cadmium is the principal stressor for European mole and Little owl populations. Wood mouse and Common vole population densities were mainly influenced by flooding and food availability. Their estimated population sizes were consistent with numbers reported in literature. Predictions for cadmium accumulation and flooding stress were in agreement with field data. The large uncertainty around cadmium toxicity for wildlife leads to the conclusion that more species-specific ecotoxicological data is required for more realistic risk assessments. The predictions for starvation were subject to the limited quantitative information on biomass obtainable as food for vertebrates. It is concluded that the modelling approach employed in Eco-SpaCE, combining ecology with ecotoxicology, provides a viable option to explore the relative contribution of contamination to the overall stress in an ecosystem. This can help environmental managers to prioritize management options, and to reduce local risks.

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