This paper presents a framework to diagnose and predict the effects of chemicals, integrating two promising tools to incorporate more ecology into ecological risk assessment, viz. traits-based approaches and ecological modelling. Traits-based approaches are increasingly used to derive correlations between the occurrence of species traits and chemical exposure from biological and chemical monitoring data. This assessment can also be used in a diagnostic way, i.e. to identify the chemicals probably posing the highest risks to the aquatic ecosystems. The paper also describes how ecological models can be used to explore how traits govern the species-substance interactions and to predict effects at the individual, population and community/ecosystem level, i.e. from the receptor to the landscape level. This can be done by developing models describing the toxicokinetics and toxicodynamics of the chemical in the individual, the life-history of species and the connectivity of populations, determining their recovery and the food-web relations at the community/ecosystem level which determine the indirect effects. A special attention is given on how spatial aspects can be included into the ecological risk assessments using ecological models. The components of the framework are introduced and critically discussed. We describe how the different tools and data generated through experimentation (lab and semi-field) and biomonitoring can be integrated. The paper uses examples from the aquatic compartment, but the concepts that are used, and their integration within the framework can be generalised to other environmental compartments. Integr Environ Assess Manag © 2013 SETAC.