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Spatial avoidance as a response to contamination by aquatic organisms in nonforced, multicompartmented exposure systems: A complementary approach to the behavioral response

Araújo, Cristiano V.M., Blasco, Julián
Environmental toxicology and chemistry 2019 v.38 no.2 pp. 312-320
aquatic organisms, bioassays, ecotoxicology, environmental assessment, habitat connectivity, habitat fragmentation, habitat preferences, risk assessment, toxicity
The idea that the hazard of contaminants is exclusively related to their toxic effects does not consider the fact that some organisms can avoid contamination, preventing toxicity. Although inferences about avoidance are made in most behavioral ecotoxicology studies, assessment of the real spatial displacement (organisms moving toward another habitat to escape contamination) is difficult due to the type of exposure (confined and mandatory) used in the bioassays: a forced exposure approach. A complementary approach using nonforced exposure systems to assess how contaminants affect the spatial distribution of organisms in a bicompartmented (toxic or nontoxic) environment has long been described. Recently, this nonforced approach has been developed to include a multi compartmented system in which different samples can be simultaneously tested. The aim of the present review was to describe the importance of the nonforced, multicompartmented exposure approach to simulate a gradient or patches of contamination, to describe the 2 main exposure systems, and to highlight the ecological relevance of including spatial avoidance and habitat preference in ecotoxicological studies. The multicompartmentalization of the system makes it possible to simulate more complex scenarios and therefore include new ecological concepts in bioassays. We also contrasted spatial avoidance in the nonforced exposure systems with the behavioral endpoints measured under other exposure systems. Finally, we showed that the nonforced, multicompartmented exposure approach makes it possible 1) to improve environmental risk assessments by adding the dispersion pattern of organisms in a multihabitat scenario, and 2) to integrate ecological concepts such as recolonization of recovering habitats, loss of habitat connectivity, habitat fragmentation, and contamination‐driven metapopulation, which have received limited attention in ecotoxicological studies. Environ Toxicol Chem 2019;38:312–320. © 2018 SETAC