John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Ecosystem services as assessment endpoints for ecological risk assessment

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Ecosystem services are defined as the outputs of ecological processes that contribute to human welfare or have the potential to do so in the future. Those outputs include food and drinking water, clean air and water, and pollinated crops. The need to protect the services provided by natural systems has been recognized previously, but ecosystem services have not been formally incorporated into ecological risk assessment practice in a general way in the United States. Endpoints used conventionally in ecological risk assessment, derived directly from the state of the ecosystem (e.g., biophysical structure and processes), and endpoints based on ecosystem services serve different purposes. Conventional endpoints are ecologically important and susceptible entities and attributes that are protected under US laws and regulations. Ecosystem services endpoints are a conceptual and analytical step beyond conventional endpoints, and are intended to complement conventional endpoints by linking and extending endpoints to goods and services with more obvious benefit to humans. Conventional endpoints can be related to ecosystem services even when the latter are not considered explicitly during problem formulation. To advance the use of ecosystem services endpoints in ecological risk assessment, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Risk Assessment Forum has added generic endpoints based on ecosystem services (ES‐GEAE) to the original 2003 set of generic ecological assessment endpoints (GEAEs). Like conventional GEAEs, ES‐GEAEs are defined by an entity and an attribute. Also like conventional GEAEs, ES‐GEAEs are broadly described and will need to be made specific when applied to individual assessments. Adoption of ecosystem services as a type of assessment endpoint is intended to improve the value of risk assessment to environmental decision making, linking ecological risk to human well‐being, and providing an improved means of communicating those risks. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved

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