Communicating and Characterizing Ecological Risk at the Watershed Scale
Since the biggest environmental problems in the United States now stem from nonpoint sources of pollution that are not regulated by Federal laws, a watershed approach to environmental decision making that uses partnerships and sound science is being used more frequently. Ecological risk assessment has been used extensively to apply scientific rigor to predict impacts of single chemicals on single species. US EPA is investigating the applicability of such assessments at the watershed scale. One of the principal challenges is characterizing and communicating ecological risks from numerous stressors, interconnected pathways, and multiple endpoints and doing this for multiple decision makers. US EPA sponsored a watershed ecological risk assessment workshop to provide guidance in this area. Based on US EPA's work and other risk characterization/communication literature this paper provides recommendations on how to characterize and communicate ecological risk at the watershed scale in three areas: (1) improved appreciation of the value of ecosystem services; (2) better interactions and collaboration with managers and the public; (3) clearer presentation of assessment findings.