WENR05 Development of ecological archetypes and models for use in chemical risk assessment

Geplaatst op: 29 maart 2021

Aanleiding van het project

Unilever, Wageningen University, Univesity of Namur en Alterra have embarked on a research on archetypes and models for use in the aquatic risk assessment of home and personal care (HPC) products. The aims of the research project are:
• The characterization of species assemblages, i.e. the taxonomic (or trait) structure and biodiversity, representative of different river ecosystems.
• The development of ecological models describing the species assemblages and their interactions.
The research includes some fundamental ecological questions, e.g. how to identify relations between taxonomy and function in freshwater ecosystems, how to identify universal descriptions of ecosystems (ecological archetypes) that are transferable between different regions and how to set up the structure of predictive ecosystem models.

Doel van het project

a) Extract representative ecological archetypes from field data that are on the one hand as simple as possible and on the other hand instrumental for the detection of baseline/reference ecosystem status and different levels of pollution and habitat type in various geographical regions. (1 Jan 16 – 31 Jun 17)
b) Develop the first series of trait-based ecosystem models for use in aquatic risk assessment in order to link taxon-specific toxicity data to sensitivity, vulnerability and functionality. Given the fate of most HPC products, these models will include the benthic compartment. (1 Jul 17 – 31 Dec 18)
c) Link water and sediment exposure archetypes of typical HPC chemicals to ecosystem models to predict effects of treated and untreated sewage output on the ecological archetypes and to perform higher tier environmental risk assessments of chemicals. (1 Jul 18 – 31 Dec 19)

Omschrijving van de activiteiten

The rersearch project consists will be carried out by two PHD canidates. One in Wageningen, and one in Namur. Additional research work is planned for Alterra. Unilver will bring expertise and experience with it’s Home and Personal Care Products and will monitor the progress and development. The following steps are planned:

1. Scenario development
1.1 Development of proposed archetypes
1.2: Selection of response and effect traits.
1.3: Defining and refining proposed archetypes in terms of traits
1.4: Link of final archetypes with ecological models
2. Model development
2.1: Library of ecosystem models of varying complexity
2.2: Models for the different ecological archetypes
2.3: Forecasts of the ecological consequences
4. Gathering of parameterisation and validation data sets
4.1. Performance of experiments to parameterise the developed models and scenarios
4.2. Gathering of field data to validate the developed models and scenarios
3. Publications3. Publications
3.1 Writing of thesis and papers

Verwachte resultaten

The project will deliver ecological scenarios and ecological models being able to assess the ecological risks of home and personal care products for aquatic ecosystems represented by these ecological scenarios. The use of ecological scenarios for chemical risk assessment is currently a hot issue. So when successful the delivered products will certainly be valuable for future projects with other type of chemicals (e.g. pesticides, veterinary medicines) as well as other jurisdictions (e.g. US, Africa, Latin America, Asia). It is envisaged that the scenarios and models are parameterised and validated with independent data sets and that an overall user-friendly tool include both products will be made available. These tools can also be used in the future to perform watersched specific evaluations of the risks of chemicals e.g. for the Dutch waterboards or water managers aborad. Alterra and unilever will decide in the first two quarters of 2016 on additional research and activities that makes the results of this collaboaration applicable for (international) water managers. This additional research is foreseen to be funded by TKI Deltatechnology funds.


Models have been used for a long time to calculate the exposure concentrations of chemicals in the water, but hardly to assess the ecological consequences of the exposure profiles. It is, therefore, a hot issue to develop ecological models and associated scenarios which include both characteristics needed for exposure (hydrology) as well as for effects (species composition) and both (e.g. temperature, organic matter content). The consortium has just finished a science project that developed ecological models which can be used for risk assessment. In this project these models will be places in their environmental context (scenarios) and adapted and further developed to fulfil the need for ecological risk assessment. This kind of project has not been performed before and although this project will focus on home and personal care products, there is much interest from institutions dealing with other types of chemicals (e.g. pesticides: industry and EFSA) on the results of this project.


The project will organise regular meetings with Unilever and associated stakeholders (e.g. regulators, other HPC companies and other academics) to 1) maximise the knowledge transfer to the stakeholders and 2) to increase the acceptability of the developed instruments and their outcome. At the end of the project an national workshop will be organised to inform other potential end-users (e.g. waterboards, CTGB, Deltares, RIVM). Also an international workshop will be organised in cooperation with the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) to inform the international industry, regulators, NGOs, consultants and academia) to explore the applicability to other types of chemicals (e.g. pesticides, veterinary medicines), environmental compartments (e.g. estuarine and marine environment) and geographical regions.