Models for assessing and forecasting the impact of environmental key pollutants on marine and freshwater ecosystems and biodiversity (MODELKEY)

The Water Framework Directive of the European Union requires a good ecological status of the European water bodies by 2015. One of the driving forces for an insufficient ecological status and reduced biodiversity of freshwater and marine ecosystems is chemical stress due to environmental pollutants. The project MODELKEY aims to contribute to the assessment, understanding and prediction of the impact of environmental toxicants (especially key pollutants) on aquatic systems at different levels of organisation (from cell to ecosystem), to the development of exposure and effect models, to the assessment and management of contaminated sediments, and to risk assessments on different scales. The consortium is developing methods to identify so-called key chemicals and their effects on the water ecosystem until the year 2010.

MODELKEY comprises a multidisciplinary approach aiming at developing interlinked and verified predictive modelling tools as well as state-of-the-art effect-assessment and analytical methods generally applicable to European freshwater and marine ecosystems:

  • to assess, forecast, and mitigate the risks of traditional and emerging pollutants on fresh water and marine ecosystems and their biodiversity at a river basin and adjacent marine environment scale;
  • to provide early warning strategies on the basis of sub-lethal effects in vitro and in vivo;
  • to provide a better understanding of cause-effect-relationships between changes in biodiversity and the ecological status, as addressed by the Water Framework Directive (WFD), and the impact of  environmental pollution as causative factor;
  • to provide methods for state-of-the-art risk assessment and decision support systems for the selection of the most efficient management options to prevent effects on biodiversity and to prioritise contamination sources and contaminated sites;
  • to strengthen the scientific knowledge on an European level in the field of impact assessment of environmental pollution on aquatic ecosystems and their biodiversity by extensive training activities and knowledge dissemination to stakeholders and the scientific community.

MODELKEY was organised in 7 subprojects. ECT participates in the subproject EFFECT (‘Mechanistic modelling of toxic effects in canonical communities and in simple food chains’). This subproject aimed to develop deterministic and stochastic models to understand, diagnose and predict the effects of pollutants on populations, communities and ecosystems. Therefore, multi-species tests with organisms belonging to three trophic levels were performed at ECT. In close cooperation with the project partner VUA (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Department of Theoretical Biology) the derived effects data were used for the development of predictive effects models. Furthermore, food chain and biomagnification studies were performed at ECT using the zebrafish Danio rerio and the sediment dwelling oligochaete Lumbriculus variegatus. Data generated in these studies contribute to the interpretation of field data compiled within the MODELKEY project.