Applying ecosystem services for pre-market environmental risk assessments of regulated stressors

Y. Devos, W.R. Munns Jr., V.E. Forbes, Lorraine Maltby, Marie Stenseke, L. Brussaard, F. Streissl, A. Hardy

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference paperAcademic

5 Citations (Scopus)


Ecosystem services (ES) are the benefits that people obtain from ecosystems. Investigating the environment through an ES framework has gained wide acceptance in the international scientific community and is applied by policymakers to protect biodiversity and safeguard the sustainability of ecosystems. This approach can enhance the ecological and societal relevance of pre‐market/prospective environmental risk assessments (ERAs) of regulated stressors by: (1) informing the derivation of operational protection goals; (2) enabling the integration of environmental and human health risk assessments; (3) facilitating horizontal integration of policies and regulations; (4) leading to more comprehensive and consistent environmental protection; (5) articulating the utility of, and trade‐offs involved in, environmental decisions; and (6) enhancing the transparency of risk assessment results and the decisions based upon them. Realisation of these advantages will require challenges that impede acceptance of an ES approach to be overcome. Particularly, there is concern that, if biodiversity only matters to the extent that it benefits humans, the intrinsic value of nature is ignored. Moreover, our understanding of linkages among ecological components and the processes that ultimately deliver ES is incomplete, valuing ES is complex, and there is no standard ES lexicon and limited familiarity with the approach. To help overcome these challenges, we encourage: (1) further research to establish biodiversity–ES relationships; (2) the development of approaches that (i) quantitatively translate responses to chemical stressors by organisms and groups of organisms to ES delivery across different spatial and temporal scales, (ii) measure cultural ES and ease their integration into ES valuations, and (iii) appropriately value changes in ES delivery so that trade‐offs among different management options can be assessed; (3) the establishment of a standard ES lexicon; and (4) building capacity in ES science and how to apply ES to ERAs. These development needs should not prevent movement towards implementation of an ES approach in ERAs, as the advantages we perceive of using this approach render it more than worthwhile to tackle those challenges. Society and the environment stand to benefit from this shift in how we conduct the ERA of regulated stressors.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the Third EFSA Scientific Conference: Science, Food and Society Guest
EditorsY. Devos, K.C. Elliott, A. Hardy
PublisherJohn Wiley and Sons
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jul 2019

Publication series

NameEFSA Journal
ISSN (Electronic)1831-4732


  • anthropogenic drivers
  • decision-making
  • ecosystem functions
  • ecosystem services
  • environmental protection
  • environmental risk assessment
  • service-providing units


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