Principal Investigator
Irene Martins

Leader Institution

Research Teams


2021 ITOPF R&D Award

MODELRISK: Ecosystem models to support Environmental Risk Assessment of marine ecosystems under HNS spills

Alongside the increasing trend on maritime transport, the number of ships carrying Hazardous and Noxious Substances (HNS) is growing steadily with more than 200 million tonnes of chemicals traded annually by tankers ( Nonetheless, knowledge regarding ecological hazards caused by HNS is scarce, narrowing preparedness and suitable responses in case of accidents with HNS cargoes at sea. Bearing this in mind, MODELRISK numerical framework aims at developing end-to-end models of marine ecosystems, supported by ocean circulation models, capable of predicting ecological hazards caused by HNS maritime spills.


In the present proposal, we will rely on previous work from the project team (Neuparth et al. 2011; Lopes et al. 2019; Soares et al. 2020) and further upscale it. Within MODELRISK, ecosystem models will be developed by incorporating physical characteristics, biogeochemical processes, and food web interactions of the habitats under study. The existing HNS database will be augmented to include ecotoxicological dose descriptors for benthic organisms as well as derived predicted no-effect concentrations (PNEC) for sediments.


To derive the physical parameters and the HNS concentrations needed for the ecosystem models, an oceanographic circulation model will be implemented for the specific areas under study and, after the proper characterization of the hydrodynamic patterns, the circulation model solutions for the targeted domains will be extracted. These solutions will offline force a Lagrangian model to represent the main HNS transport patterns providing plumes’ behaviour and maps of potential hotspots of accumulation.


The interconnection between the three tools will allow to retrieve the relevant information regarding HNS characteristics and effects from the online HNS database, which will be used by the HNS dispersion models, which in turn will force the ecosystem models.


Due to their economic and ecological importance, seamounts and hydrothermal vents of the Azores Mid-Atlantic Region (NE Atlantic) will be selected as test case studies to implement and calibrate the MODELRISK framework. Several HNS spill scenarios will be run to account for Environmental Risk Assessment of the targeted ecosystems with the ultimate goal of providing support for decision-making and management by the competent authorities