The impact of toxic chemicals on wild animals and plants can be quantified in terms of the enhanced risk of population extinction. To illustrate the method, we estimated it for herring gull (Larus argentatus) populations in Long Island (NY, USA) exposed to DDT (p, p′-dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) and its metabolites (abbreviated as DDTs) with a strong biomagnification effect. The method 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 the doubling time of an exponentially growing population and the intensity of the environmental fluctuation 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 fertilities (including chick survivorship) are density dependent and sensitive to DDTs exposure but age-specific survivorships are not. The results are expressed in terms of the risk equivalent - the decrease in the carrying capacity K that causes the same enhancement of extinction risk as chemical exposure at a given level. The high concentration reported in Long Island in the 1960s corresponds to the equivalent loss of carrying capacity by 30.5% when K is 100 (the number of breeding females), and coefficient of variation (CV) = 0.2 (σe 2 = 0.0298). Risk equivalent allows us to compare different risk factors and is useful in mitigation banking.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Environmental Chemistry
- Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis