The impact of toxic chemicals on wild animals and plants can be quantified in terms of the enhanced risk of population extinction. To illustrate a method for doing this, we estimated such impact for two bird species: herring gull (Larus argentatus) in Long Island, NY, and sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) in eastern England, when they were exposed to DDT (p,p′- dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) and its metabolites (called DDTs). The method we used is based on a formula of the mean time to population extinction derived for a stochastic differential equation (the canonical model). The intrinsic rate of natural population growth was estimated from an exponentially growing population, and the intensity of the environmental fluctuation was estimated from the magnitude of population size fluctuation. The effect of exposure to DDTs in reducing the population growth rate was evaluated based on an age-structured population model, by assuming that age-specific fertility is density-dependent and sensitive to DDTs exposure, but age-specific survivorship is not. The results are expressed in terms of the risk equivalent - the decrease in carrying capacity K that causes the same enhancement of extinction risk as chemical exposure at a given level. The risk equivalent can be used in mitigation banking.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Environmental Chemistry
- Environmental Science(all)