Pistocchi, Alberto and Sarigiannis, D.A. and Vizcaíno Martínez, María Pilar
Spatially explicit multimedia fate models for pollutants in Europe: State of the art and perspectives.
"Science of The Total Environment", v. 408
A review by Hollander et al. (in preparation), discusses the relative potentials, advantages and shortcomings of spatial and non spatial models of chemical fate, highlighting that spatially explicit models may be needed for specific purposes. The present paper reviews the state of the art in spatially explicit chemical fate and transport modeling in Europe. We summarize the three main approaches currently adopted in spatially explicit modeling, namely (1) multiple box models, (2) numerical solutions of simultaneous advection–dispersion equations (ADE) in air, soil and water, and (3) the development of meta-models. As all three approaches experience limitations, we describe in further detail geographic information system (GIS)-based modeling as an alternative approach allowing a simple, yet spatially explicit description of chemical fate.
We review the input data needed, and the options available for their retrieval at the European scale. We also discuss the importance of, and limitations in model evaluation.
We observe that the high uncertainty in chemical emissions and physico-chemical behavior in the environment make realistic simulations difficult to obtain. Therefore we envisage a shift in model use from process simulation to hypothesis testing, in which explaining the discrepancies between observed and computed chemical concentrations in the environment takes importance over prediction per se. This shift may take advantage of using simple models in GIS with residual uses of complex models for detailed studies. It also calls for tighter joint interpretation of models and spatially distributed monitoring datasets, and more refined spatial representation of environmental drivers such as landscape and climate variables, and better emission estimates. In summary, we conclude that the problem is not “how to compute” (i.e. emphasis on numerical methods, spatial/temporal discretization, quantitative uncertainty and sensitivity analysis…) but “what to compute” (i.e. emphasis on spatial distribution of emissions, and the depiction of appropriate spatial patterns of environmental drivers).