other, unexposed population. Depending on the spatial separation of the areas, separate assessments can be performed for each area or a single assessment can be performed with a metapopulation model that represents each area as one or more populations.
The spatial variability of exposure would be estimated on the basis of spatially explicit projections of the exposure models, and the spatial variability in the species distribution would be based on the projections of a species-distribution model (an ecological-niche model or habitat-suitability model) that might be based on geospatial data (see the section “Characterization and Delineation of Habitat” in Chapter 3). The committee concludes that in the absence of spatial data, it is appropriate to use generic, single-population models with no spatial structure that include average exposure and environmental conditions expected in the exposed area of the species’ range and to incorporate errors estimated with exposure modeling.
Variability (or stochasticity) refers to parameters of a population model that vary randomly, such as survival rates or fecundities in different age classes. Temporal variability means that models cannot predict the population size in the future precisely. Instead, they can project statistical distributions of future population sizes. The distributions are often used to calculate risks, such as risk of species extinction, risk of population extirpation, or risk of population decline to a predetermined level. Incorporating temporal variability results in a more realistic model that has more relevant end points, such as extinction risk. The committee concludes that population models that incorporate temporal variability and focus on probabilistic results are needed for assessing risks at the population level and that deterministic models are insufficient for this task. However, in the absence of such information, deterministic models with such end points as lambda (the finite rate of increase) can be used as the initial step of risk assessment. In such cases, every effort should be made to obtain the data necessary to estimate temporal variability, and the uncertainties in the end points reported should be clearly described in the assessment with the recognition that a deterministic baseline model might bias the assessment. Notwithstanding the use of a deterministic baseline model, uncertainties in the exposure analysis and the dose-response analysis should be incorporated into a risk assessment, for example, by using joint probability distributions (see Chapter 5).
Density dependence (most commonly, the reduction in fecundity and survival that occurs as population size increases and that results from competition for food, breeding habitat, or other critical resources) is an important aspect of the dynamics of many populations and their responses to toxicants (Forbes et al.