Keywords: Oak Ridge Reservation, Savannah River Site, USDOE, ecological risk assessment, habitat, habitat suitability index, HSI models
Assessing ecological risks at US Department of Energy facilities using methods borrowed from landscape ecology and habitat suitability analysis. Part II. Adapting Habitat Suitability Index models and landscape-scale ecological models for use in ecolo
Historical and continuing US Department of Energy (USDOE) operations have not only contaminated the environment but have altered the landscape as well as habitat quality and quantity. The changes in the landscape that have occurred within USDOE facilities may be as important as assessing the effects resulting from the release of chemical contaminants into the environment. We examined several methods from habitat analysis and landscape ecology for their possible application to ecological risk assessment at selected USDOE facilities. In an earlier manuscript, we presented landscape ecological methods that could be used in ecological risk assessment. In this manuscript, we present results of adapting Habitat Suitability Index (HSI) models, developed for habitat suitability analysis, for use in ecological risk assessment at USDOE facilities. The Oak Ridge Reservation (ORR) in eastern Tennessee and the Savannah River Site (SRS) in western South Carolina were selected as representative USDOE facilities. HSI models were developed in a probabilistic format for species common to both facilities [white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) and pileated woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus)] and species exclusive to each facility [red-spotted newt (Notophthalmus viridescens viridescens) for the ORR and American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) for the SRS]. Results indicate that HSI models could effectively be used to assess ecological risks. Spatially-explicit HSI models and landscape-scale ecological models that provide the necessary spatial component for more realistic risk assessments that could be used in ecological risk assessments at a variety of federal facilities, such as USDOE facilities, are presented as a result of a literature review and an internet search. The combination and integration of methods from habitat suitability analysis and ecological models presented in this manuscript and methods from landscape ecology presented in an earlier manuscript represent an effective set of tools that could be used to assess ecological risks at USDOE facilities; these tools could also be used at other locations.