Advantages and challenges associated with implementing an ecosystem services approach to ecological risk assessment for chemicals

Lorraine Maltby*, Paul J. van den Brink, Jack H. Faber, Stuart Marshall

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


The ecosystem services (ES) approach is gaining broad interest in regulatory and policy arenas for use in landscape management and ecological risk assessment. It has the potential to bring greater ecological relevance to the setting of environmental protection goals and to the assessment of the ecological risk posed by chemicals. A workshop, organised under the auspices of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry Europe, brought together scientific experts from European regulatory authorities, the chemical industry and academia to discuss and evaluate the challenges associated with implementing an ES approach to chemical ecological risk assessment (ERA).Clear advantages of using an ES approach in prospective and retrospective ERA were identified, including: making ERA spatially explicit and of relevance to management decisions (i.e. indicating what ES to protect and where); improving transparency in communicating risks and trade-offs; integrating across multiple stressors, scales, habitats and policies. A number of challenges were also identified including: the potential for increased complexity in assessments; greater data requirements; limitations in linking endpoints derived from current ecotoxicity tests to impacts on ES.In principle, the approach was applicable to all chemical sectors, but the scale of the challenge of applying an ES approach to general chemicals with widespread and dispersive uses leading to broad environmental exposure, was highlighted. There was agreement that ES-based risk assessment should be based on the magnitude of impact rather than on toxicity thresholds. The need for more bioassays/tests with functional endpoints was recognized, as was the role of modelling and the need for ecological production functions to link measurement endpoints to assessment endpoints. Finally, the value of developing environmental scenarios that can be combined with spatial information on exposure, ES delivery and service provider vulnerability was recognized.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1342-1351
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date2017
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2018


  • Ecological indicators
  • Ecotoxicity tests
  • Landscape-scale risk assessment


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