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Presentations and Discussions Technology Briefings May 1999 Forum


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Last updated: January 15, 2013
South Florida Restoration Science Forum

Mercury

How will Everglades restoration affect mercury risks?

Poster presented May 1999, at the South Florida Restoration Science Forum


Presenters:

Dr. Darren G. Rumbold drumbol@sfwmd.gov
Senior Environmental Scientist
South Florida Water Management District
Water Resource Evaluation /Resource Assessment Div.
3301 Gun Club Road
West Palm Beach Florida 33406, USA
Telephone: 561 682-2132
Field: Ecotoxicology

Experience: biomonitoring dioxins, mercury and other metals in wildlife near solid-waste incinerator; organochlorine pesticides in birds; Organochlorine pesticides, PAHs and n-alkanes in coral-reef ecosystem; toxicity identification evaluation in near-shore waters from Florida Keys; transport, fate and risk assessment of mercury in Everglades.

South Florida Water Management District
Mr. Peter Rawlik prawlik@sfwmd.gov
Staff Environmental Scientist
South Florida Water Management District
Water Resource Evaluation /Resource Assessment Div.
3301 Gun Club Road
West Palm Beach Florida 33406, USA
Telephone: 561 682-6710
Field:Everglades Ecology and Field Sampling Logistics

Experience: Monitoring Everglades surface water quality; biomonitoring along an Everglades nutrient gradient for impacts on macrophytes, periphyton and macroinvertebrates; Emergent macrophyte transpiration rates; mercury sample collection; mercury transport, fate and risk assessment of mercury in the Everglades.

What Is "Risk"?

Risk is defined as the probability that a substance or situation will produce harm under specified conditions. Risk is a combination of two factors:

  • The probability that an adverse event will occur, such as a specific disease or type of injury.
  • The consequences of the adverse event.
Source: Presidential/Congressional Commission on Risk Assessment and Risk Management (1997).

Ecological Risk Assessment

Risk assessment is simply a process to organize and analyze data.

Risk assessments ask three basic questions:

  • What is at risk, i.e., what can happen
  • Probability that it will occur, i.e., how likely
  • Consequences of occurrence, i.e., so what?

This information is then used by a risk manager, along with information from other sources, in judging whether the consequences require increased management or regulation.

framework illustration
Click on this image to view a larger version.

Framework for ecological risk assessment (USEPA, 1998)


 
The assessment process is divided into three phases: problem formulation, analysis and risk characterization.

First, the problem is defined by identifying what the potential stressor is (e.g., mercury), as well as what specific environmental value or ecological entity is to be protected (e.g., humans, panther, wading bird). The final product of problem formulation is an analysis plan, which is a "blueprint" for using available and new data to test explicit risk hypotheses.
 

Phase two is the analysis phase that includes two principal activities: characterization of exposure and characterization of effects.

  • Exposure characterization attempts to determine the number and kinds of ecological entities exposed to the stressor, along with the magnitude, frequency, extent, and duration of the exposure.
  • Effects characterization determines the probable negative effects from a given level of exposure.


Risk characterization is the final step that integrates exposure and effects using a wide range of techniques to estimate the nature and extent of risk. All assumptions and uncertainties are summarized.

The assessment process is meant to be flexible and iterative as important new information and viewpoints arise.

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Next Next: How will Everglades restoration affect mercury risk? (Part 2)

Related Links


U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey, Center for Coastal Geology
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Last updated: 15 January, 2013 @ 12:44 PM (TJE)