Prospective Environmental Risk Assessment for Sediment-Bound Organic Chemicals: A Proposal for Tiered Effect Assessment

  • Noël J. DiepensEmail author
  • Albert A. Koelmans
  • Hans Baveco
  • Paul J. van den Brink
  • Martine J. van den Heuvel-Greve
  • Theo C. M. Brock
Part of the Reviews of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology book series (RECT, volume 239)


A broadly accepted framework for prospective environmental risk assessment (ERA) of sediment-bound organic chemicals is currently lacking. Such a framework requires clear protection goals, evidence-based concepts that link exposure to effects and a transparent tiered-effect assessment. In this paper, we provide a tiered prospective sediment ERA procedure for organic chemicals in sediment, with a focus on the applicable European regulations and the underlying data requirements. Using the ecosystem services concept, we derived specific protection goals for ecosystem service providing units: microorganisms, benthic algae, sediment-rooted macrophytes, benthic invertebrates and benthic vertebrates. Triggers for sediment toxicity testing are discussed.

We recommend a tiered approach (Tier 0 through Tier 3). Tier-0 is a cost-effective screening based on chronic water-exposure toxicity data for pelagic species and equilibrium partitioning. Tier-1 is based on spiked sediment laboratory toxicity tests with standard benthic test species and standardised test methods. If comparable chronic toxicity data for both standard and additional benthic test species are available, the Species Sensitivity Distribution (SSD) approach is a more viable Tier-2 option than the geometric mean approach. This paper includes criteria for accepting results of sediment-spiked single species toxicity tests in prospective ERA, and for the application of the SSD approach. We propose micro/mesocosm experiments with spiked sediment, to study colonisation success by benthic organisms, as a Tier-3 option. Ecological effect models can be used to supplement the experimental tiers. A strategy for unifying information from various tiers by experimental work and exposure—and effect modelling is provided.


Sediment ecotoxicology Benthic organisms Sediment-spiked toxicity tests Species sensitivity distributions Microcosms Exposure and effect modelling 



This research was funded by CEFIC, the Long Range Research Initiative (LRI). We would like to thank all workshop participants (see full name list in Appendix 1) for their participation in the discussions during the workshop Prospective Sediment Risk Assessment held on 24-02-14 in Wageningen. We want to thank Gertie Arts for taking the minutes during the workshop and Mick Hamer, Stuart Marshall, and Paul Thomas for their comments on an earlier version of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Noël J. Diepens
    • 1
    Email author
  • Albert A. Koelmans
    • 1
    • 2
  • Hans Baveco
    • 3
  • Paul J. van den Brink
    • 1
    • 3
  • Martine J. van den Heuvel-Greve
    • 2
  • Theo C. M. Brock
    • 3
  1. 1.Aquatic Ecology and Water Quality Management Group, Department of Environmental SciencesWageningen UniversityWageningenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.IMARES, Institute for Marine Resources & Ecosystem StudiesWageningen URIJmuidenThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Environmental Risk Assessment TeamAlterraWageningenThe Netherlands

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