Where do uncertainties reside within environmental risk assessments? Expert opinion on uncertainty distributions for pesticide risks to surface water organisms

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Abstract

A reliable characterisation of uncertainties can aid uncertainty identification during environmental risk assessments (ERAs). However, typologies can be implemented inconsistently, causing uncertainties to go unidentified. We present an approach based on nine structured elicitations, in which subject-matter experts, for pesticide risks to surface water organisms, validate and assess three dimensions of uncertainty: its level (the severity of uncertainty, ranging from determinism to ignorance); nature (whether the uncertainty is epistemic or aleatory); and location (the data source or area in which the uncertainty arises). Risk characterisation contains the highest median levels of uncertainty, associated with estimating, aggregating and evaluating the magnitude of risks. Regarding the locations in which uncertainty is manifest, data uncertainty is dominant in problem formulation, exposure assessment and effects assessment. The comprehensive description of uncertainty described will enable risk analysts to prioritise the required phases, groups of tasks, or individual tasks within a risk analysis according to the highest levels of uncertainty, the potential for uncertainty to be reduced or quantified, or the types of location-based uncertainty, thus aiding uncertainty prioritisation during environmental risk assessments. In turn, it is expected to inform investment in uncertainty reduction or targeted risk management action.

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APA

Skinner, D. J. C., Rocks, S. A., & Pollard, S. J. T. (2016). Where do uncertainties reside within environmental risk assessments? Expert opinion on uncertainty distributions for pesticide risks to surface water organisms. Science of the Total Environment, 572, 23–33. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.07.164

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