Marine Ecotoxicology and Risk Assessment

Marine ecosystems are exposed to increasing levels of stress due to, for instance, eutrophication, climate change and chemical pollution, but little information is available about their ecological impact. One of the main questions in this context is how the ecological structure and functioning of marine ecosystems (e.g. primary production and biodiversity) is altered and how these types of stressors interact with each other. In marine ecotoxicology and risk assessment we aim to quantify the ecotoxicological effects of chemicals. To do so, we expose (a group of) test organisms to a concentration range of a chemical under controlled circumstances (i.e. effect assessment) in standardized laboratory toxicity tests. The purpose is to infer predicted no effect concentrations (PNEC) and environmental quality criteria for legislative purposes. In ecological risk assessment, PNECs are compared with the expected environmental concentrations, quantified based on measurements (measured environmental concentration, MEC) or, if no monitoring data are available, model predictions based on the chemical properties of the target substance and the surrounding environmental conditions (predicted environmental concentrations, PEC). The ratio between the PEC (based on exposure assessment) and PNEC (based on effect assessment), indicates the potential risk to the environment.

Current researchers
João BarbosaSamuel Moeris

Past researchers
Jan Baert, Jonathan De RaedtGert EveraertLisbeth Van Cauwenberghe, Michiel Claessens

PhD theses
Van Cauwenberghe, L. (2016). Occurrence, effects and risks of marine microplastics. Ghent University. Faculty of Bioscience Engineering, Ghent, Belgium.

Everaert, G. (2015). Potential risk of organic micropollutants on marine phytoplankton in the greater North Sea: integration of modelling and experimental approaches. Ghent University. Faculty of Bioscience Engineering, Ghent, Belgium.

Claessens, M. (2013). The use of passive samplers as a central tool in integrated environmental risk assessments. Ghent University. Faculty of Bioscience Engineering, Ghent, Belgium.

Recent publications
Everaert, G. et al. (2016). Realistic environmental mixtures of hydrophobic compounds do not alter growth of a marine diatom. MARINE POLLUTION BULLETIN102(1), 58–64.

Claessens, M. et al. (2013). Emerging contaminants in Belgian marine waters: single toxicant and mixture risks of pharmaceuticals. MARINE POLLUTION BULLETIN71(1-2), 41–50.

Ghekiere, A. et al. (2013). Monitoring micropollutants in marine waters: can quality standards be met? MARINE POLLUTION BULLETIN69(1-2), 243–250.

Van Cauwenberghe, L. et al. (2013). Assessment of marine debris on the Belgian continental shelf. MARINE POLLUTION BULLETIN73(1), 161–169.


New Strategies for monitoring and risk assessment of Hazardous chemicals in the marine Environment with Passive Samplers (NewSTHEPS)