EPA EcoBox Tools by Effects - Aquatic
Many sources, including databases and publications, contain information for characterizing ecological effects of stressors to aquatic receptors—i.e., fish, benthic invertebratesbenthic invertebratesAnimals without backbones that live on or in the sediments of a lake, pond, river, or other aquatic system., and aquatic plants. Toxicity Reference Values (TRVs) available for use in ecological risk assessment include water quality criteria and sediment quality criteria from several sources.
Aquatic life criteria are chemical concentration goals to protect surface water for aquatic life use. Aquatic life criteria provide protection for plants and animals that are found in surface waters. EPA develops these criteria as numeric limits on the amounts of chemicals that can be present in river, lake, or stream water without harm to aquatic life. Aquatic life criteria are designed to provide protection for both freshwater and saltwater aquatic organisms from the effects of acute (short-term) and chronic (long-term) exposure to potentially harmful stressors. Aquatic life criteria are based on toxicity information and are developed to protect aquatic organisms from death, slower growth, reduced reproduction, and the accumulation of harmful levels of toxic chemicals in their tissues that may adversely affect consumers of such organisms. EPA's compilation of national recommended water quality criteria contains recommended water quality criteria for the protection of aquatic life for approximately 150 pollutants. These criteria are published pursuant to Section 304(a) of the Clean Water Act (CWA).
Controlling the concentrations of stressors in sediment helps to protect bottom dwelling species and prevents contaminants from moving up the food chain and accumulating in the tissue of animals at progressively higher levels. This is particularly important at the lower levels of the food chain because the concentration of many pollutants may increase at each link in the food chain. EPA develops sediment quality criteria guidance on the concentrations or amounts of individual chemicals that can be present in river, lake, or stream sediments and still protect sediment-dwelling organisms--and ultimately animals higher in the food chain--from the harmful effects of toxic stressors.
EPA’s ECOTOXicology database (ECOTOX) is a source for locating single chemical toxicity data for aquatic life, terrestrial plants, and terrestrial wildlife. ECOTOX integrates three previously independent databases (AQUIRE, PHYTOTOX, and TERRETOX) into a unique system that includes toxicity data derived predominately from the peer-reviewed literature.
Other Federal agencies, state agencies, and some EPA regions have compiled screening criteria for evaluating effects to aquatic life. See the table below for links to these websites.
The resources listed below include tools that might be used to calculate dose/risk to aquatic biota as well as documents that describe how to quantify dose/risk or provide reference values/benchmarks for assessing risks.