Improving environmental assessments by integrating Species Sensitivity Distributions into environmental modeling: examples with two hypothetical oil spills

Adriana C Bejarano, Alan J Mearns
Marine Pollution Bulletin 2015 April 15, 93 (1-2): 172-82
A three dimensional (3D) trajectory model was used to simulate oil mass balance and environmental concentrations of two 795,000 L hypothetical oil spills modeled under physical and chemical dispersion scenarios. Species Sensitivity Distributions (SSD) for Total Hydrocarbon Concentrations (THCs) were developed, and Hazard Concentrations (HC) used as levels of concern. Potential consequences to entrained water column organisms were characterized by comparing model outputs with SSDs, and obtaining the proportion of species affected (PSA) and areas with oil concentrations exceeding HC5s (Area ⩾ HC5). Under the physically-dispersed oil scenario ⩽ 77% of the oil remains on the water surface and strands on shorelines, while with the chemically-dispersed oil scenario ⩽ 67% of the oil is entrained in the water column. For every 10% increase in chemical dispersion effectiveness, the average PSA and Area ⩾ HC5 increases (range: 0.01-0.06 and 0.50-2.9 km(2), respectively), while shoreline oiling decreases (⩽ 2919 L/km). Integrating SSDs into modeling may improve understanding of scales of potential impacts to water column organisms, while providing net environmental benefit comparison of oil spill response options.

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