Priorities and opportunities in the application of the ecosystem services concept in risk assessment for chemicals in the environment

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

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


The ecosystem services approach has gained broad interest in regulatory and policy circles for use in ecological risk assessment. Whilst identifying several challenges, scientific experts from European regulatory authorities,
the chemical industry and academia considered the approach applicable to all chemical sectors and potentially contributing to greater ecological relevance for setting and assessing environmental protection goals compared to current European regulatory frameworks for chemicals. These challengeswere addressed in workshops to develop a common understanding across stakeholders on how the ecosystem services concept might be used in chemical risk assessment and what would need to be done to implement it. This paper describes the consensus
outcome of those discussions. Knowledge gaps and research needs were identified and prioritised, exploring the use of novel approaches from ecology, ecotoxicology and ecological modelling. Where applicable, distinction is
made between prospective and retrospective ecological risk assessment. For prospective risk assessment the development of environmental scenarios accounting for chemical exposure and ecological conditions was designated
as a top priority. For retrospective risk assessment the top priority research need was development of reference conditions for key ecosystem services and guidance for their derivation. Both prospective and retrospective
risk assessment would benefit from guidance on the taxa and measurement endpoints relevant to specific ecosystem services and from improved understanding of the relationships between measurement endpoints
fromstandard toxicity tests and the ecosystemservices of interest (i.e. assessment endpoints). The development of mechanistic models, which could serve as ecological production functions, was identified as a priority.
A conceptual framework for future chemical risk assessment based on an ecosystem services approach is presented.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1067-1077
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2019


  • Landscape-scale risk assessment
  • Prospective risk assessment
  • Research needs
  • Retrospective risk assessment


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