Towards a biology-based extrapolation in environmental risk assessment: development of a mechanistic framework to include (epi) genetic variation in the risk evaluation of chemicals in aquatic ecosystems

01 January 2017 → 31 December 2019
Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)
Research disciplines
  • Natural sciences
    • Epigenomics
    • Transcriptomics
    • Aquatic biology
aquatic ecosystems
Project description

Environmental risk assessment aims to inform policies and regulations to ensure adequate protection of all organisms within the ecosystems under regulation. However, these policies and regulations are based on standard toxicity experiments with only a small number of individuals, often with limited to no genetic diversity. This contrasts the variability and diversity present in natural populations. The easy solution for this problem is all too often the common use of arbitrarily defined safety factors to translate the results from standard toxicity tests to natural populations. Surprisingly, these safety factors are still not based on scientific literature or sound biological and ecological principles. There is thus no guarantee that these safety factors adequately protect the ecosystems in question. Therefore, the current project proposal will focus on developing a mechanistic framework that accounts for and integrates (epi)genetic variation inherent to natural populations. By using new molecular technologies to determine this variation and understand how it links to variation in stress response, this project can develop a new mechanistic framework and will therefore demonstrate how we can start to integrate more biology-based and scientificallyfounded methods into environmental risk assessment.