BACKGROUND: For the registration of pesticides in the European Union, model simulations for worst-case scenarios are used to demonstrate that leaching concentrations to groundwater do not exceed a critical threshold. A worst-case scenario is a combination of soil and climate properties for which predicted leaching concentrations are higher than a certain percentile of the spatial concentration distribution within a region. The derivation of scenarios is complicated by uncertainty about soil and pesticide fate parameters. As the ranking of climate and soil property combinations according to predicted leaching concentrations is different for different pesticides, the worst-case scenario for one pesticide may misrepresent the worst case for another pesticide, which leads to ‘scenario uncertainty’. RESULTS: Pesticide fate parameter uncertainty led to higher concentrations in the higher percentiles of spatial concentration distributions, especially for distributions in smaller and more homogeneous regions. The effect of pesticide fate parameter uncertainty on the spatial concentration distribution was small when compared with the uncertainty of local concentration predictions and with the scenario uncertainty. CONCLUSION: Uncertainty in pesticide fate parameters and scenario uncertainty can be accounted for using higher percentiles of spatial concentration distributions and considering a range of pesticides for the scenario selection
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