Spatial Ecotoxicology

Spatial ecotoxicology is the study of the spatial pattern of risk and spatial effects of toxic chemicals on biological organisms.[1] The toxic chemicals have a spatial distribution and transport in the environment and the food chain. Furthermore, on the population, community, ecosystem, and biosphere level spatial distributions of individuals are considered in their exposure. Spatial ecotoxicology requires the multidisciplinary fields of ecotoxicology, which integrates toxicology and ecology to determine the spatial distribution, propagation and processing of toxic chemicals.[2]

The ultimate goal of this approach is to be able to reveal and to predict the spatial effects of pollution within the context of all other environmental factors. Based on this knowledge, the most efficient and effective action to prevent or remediate any detrimental effect can be identified. In those ecosystems that are already impacted by pollution, ecotoxicological studies can inform as to the best course of action to restore ecosystem services and functions efficiently and effectively.[3]

Learning tasks

  • Explain spatial patterns that can been detected by study design - exposure to chemicals and cases of cancer or other diseases associated with the exposure.
  • What are the challenges in creating evidence of a systemic link between exposure to chemicals and public health?

See also



  1. Ecotoxicology: Wikipedia Definition with added citation (accessed 2017/09/25) -
  2. Fort, J., Robertson, G. J., Grémillet, D., Traisnel, G., & Bustamante, P. (2014). Spatial ecotoxicology: migratory Arctic seabirds are exposed to mercury contamination while overwintering in the northwest Atlantic. Environmental science & technology, 48(19), 11560-11567.
  3. Nienstedt, K. M., Brock, T. C., van Wensem, J., Montforts, M., Hart, A., Aagaard, A., ... & Capri, E. (2012). Development of a framework based on an ecosystem services approach for deriving specific protection goals for environmental risk assessment of pesticides. Science of the Total Environment, 415, 31-38.