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Processes influencing chemical biomagnification and trophic magnification factors in aquatic ecosystems: Implications for chemical hazard and risk assessment

Mackay, Donald, Celsie, Alena K.D., Arnot, Jon A., Powell, David E.
Chemosphere 2016 v.154 pp. 99-108
aquatic ecosystems, bioaccumulation factor, biotransformation, chemical concentration, chemical hazards, hydrophobicity, models, omnivores, risk, risk assessment, trophic levels, uncertainty
Bioconcentration factors (BCFs) and bioaccumulation factors (BAFs) are widely used in scientific and regulatory programs to assess chemical hazards. There is increasing interest in also using biomagnification factors (BMFs) and trophic magnification factors (TMFs) for this purpose, especially for highly hydrophobic substances that may reach high concentrations in predatory species that occupy high trophic level positions in ecosystems. Measurements of TMFs in specific ecosystems can provide invaluable confirmation that biomagnification or biodilution has occurred across food webs, but their use in a regulatory context can be controversial because of uncertainties related to the reliability of measurements and their regulatory interpretation. The objective of this study is to explore some of the recognized uncertainties and dependencies in field BMFs and TMFs. This is accomplished by compiling a set of three simple food web models (pelagic, demersal and combined pelagic–demersal) consisting of up to seven species to simulate field BMFs and TMFs and to explore their dependences on hydrophobicity (expressed as log KOW), rates of biotransformation and growth, sediment-water fugacity ratios, and extent of food web omnivory and issues that arise when chemical concentration gradients exist in aquatic ecosystems. It is shown that empirical TMFs can be highly sensitive to these factors, thus the use of TMFs in a regulatory context must recognize these sensitivities. It is suggested that simple but realistic evaluative food web models could be used to extend BCF and BAF assessments to include BMFs and TMFs, thus providing a tool to address bioaccumulation hazard and the potential risk of exposures to elevated chemical concentrations in organisms at high trophic levels.