Using STELLA® to Model Population-Level Ecological Risk

Christopher J. Kriegner, William A. Schew, Ph.D., Parikhit Sinha, Ph.D., and V. Lyle Trumbull, Ph.D.

O’Brien & Gere 512 East Township Line Road Two Valley Square, Suite 120 Blue Bell, PA 19422

Traditional Hazard Quotient methodologies for estimating risk are based on the protection of an individual of the species where the goal of ecological risk assessment is to protect vulnerable populations (USEPA, 1997). Risk management decisions that are based upon the results of traditional ecological risk assessment and put into perspective by modeling the population level response may be a more reasonable approach.

Using STELLA® software, a hypothetical population of Peromyscus maniculatus is modeled using the logistic growth model and Hollings type III predation. The simulated population is exposed to varying concentrations of lead (Pb) in soil, utilizing the recommended dose calculation values and effect level concentrations suggested for use in the Ecological Risk Assessment Guidance for Superfund (ERAGS) document (USEPA, 1997). Subsequent to this dose calculation, the population may either become insulted or remain unaffected via comparison between the estimated total dose value and lowest observed adverse effects levels, based on reproduction and mortality. If, as a result of this comparison, either of these benchmarks are exceeded, a relative decrease is made in the population growth rate. If the total dose calculation results in no exceedance of the lowest observed adverse effects level (LOAEL) benchmark values, the growth rate calculation is not altered and the population is modeled under ‘normal’ conditions.


STELLA Software
STELLA® software (isee systems, 2006) may be useful as a platform to estimate population level ecological risk, demonstrate population robustness in the presence of an insult, and avoid unnecessary remedial action.


Lead Uptake
Prey Item
⎛ FIRi × Cij Dose j = ∑ ⎜ ⎜ BW i =1 ⎝

“Control” run: Population growth in absence of lead.

Population growth with lead concentrations in soil (values in mg/kg): 100, 2575, 5050, 7525, 10000.

Direct Ingestion
⎞ ⎟ ⎟ ⎠

Total Dose
Total Dose = Doseprey1 + Doseprey2 + Doseprey3 + Dosesoil

Peromyscus maniculatus
Residing on the ground in a variety of habitats (deserts prairies, rocky habitats, woodlands, and tundra), deer mice are among longest lived murine species.

Dosesoil = Concsoil x IRsoil

Value or Relevant Equation 100, 2575, 5050, 7525, 10000 (mg/kg) 1 0.56 0.69 0.097 0.40 0.59 0.01 0.20 0.004 80 635 0.5 0.75 -1.62+(0.0103*Latitude)+(0.106*Longitude)+(0.0004* Latitude^2)+(0.0004*Latitude^2)-(0.0005*Longitude^2) 40.473634 -77.513700 if TotalDose> Mortality_LOAEL then (NormalDeathrate + (LOG10(TotalDose))*0.25) else NormalDeathrate
if TotalDose > Repro_LOAEL then Percent_female*percent_fertile*Average_litter_size - Natural_Death) LOGN (TotalDose) *0.07 else percent_female*percent_fertile* Average_litter_size-Natural_Death

Selected for this study because:

Lead_Conc_in_Soil FracDryMatter BAFPlant BAFInvert BAFMammal DietFracPlant DietFracInvert DietFracMammal IRFood IRSoil

Population growth with lead concentrations (values in mg/kg): 100, 2575, 5050, 7525, 10000 with percent females <40 or percent fertile <60.


• Thrive in variety of habitats • Abundant in most of the continental United States and are therefore relevant to the Superfund
Credit: National Park Service Photo by John Good

program and other toxic sites • Biology dictates their direct and indirect contact with soil substrate


y = -0.006x + 106.51 R2 = 0.6542

Lead is a naturally occurring element in varying concentrations, and is not essential for birds, mammals, or plants. Excess lead input into ecosystems is the result of power plants, ceramic manufacturing, mining, ore-refining, smelting of lead ores, the production and use of lead alloys and compounds, recycling, combustion processes, industrial processes, and from disposal (USEPA, 2005). Lead poisoning can cause: reduced sperm motility, reduced fecundity, reduced growth, reduced reproductive capacity, and increased mortality.

Logistic Growth

Hollings Type III Predation

100 80 60 40 20 0

1.4 1.2 1

y = -0.2827Ln(x) + 2.6961 2 R = 0.8373

ReproLOAEL MortalityLOAEL PercentFemale PercentFertile AverageLitterSize

dN ⎞ N⎞ = r * N * ⎟1 − ⎟ − dt K ⎠ No2 + N 2 ⎠
r = N = K = ß = P = No =

β × P× N


Series1 Linerar (Series1)

0.8 0.6 0.4 0.2 0

Series1 Log. (Series1)

*Latitude *Longitude NaturalDeath


Selected for this study because:

• • • •

Frequently a constituent of concern at hazardous waste sites Many small mammal studies exist regarding this compound Proven toxicological effects on animals Lead contamination is relevant to places other than Superfund sites (Shooting ranges, private property, etc.)

NormalDeathRate K SiteSize FoodAbundance No P β

0.45 15*SiteSize 6.2 4680.5 0.5*Food_Abundance 10 20

growth rate of population number of individuals in population carrying capacity measure of predation efficiency number of predators food abundance switching value STELLA® Tools













Linear regression of lead soil concentrations compared calculated populations size.

Logarithmic regression of lead soil concentrations compared to calculated growth rate (r) value.

• • • • •

* Random location in central Pennsylvania

Table 1. Values and supplemental equations utilized in the model.




Growth rate becomes negative at soil lead concentration of 8690 mg/kg (dose concentration 1127 mg/kg bw-day). Marked decrease in population growth observed at soil concentration of 4900 mg/kg. This population, with 45% females or less, cannot grow in high (concentration = 4,899 > mg/kg) soil lead concentrations. This population, with less than 60% of females fertile, cannot grow in high (concentration = 4,899 > mg/kg) soil lead concentrations. Considering the stated assumptions, this Peromyscus maniculatus population cannot reach carrying capacity in the presence of soil lead concentrations greater than 4,899 mg/kg. • The mammalian ecological soil screening level for lead is 56.0 mg/kg dry weight in soil.