Science Inventory

Using ecological production functions to link ecological processes to ecosystem services.


Bruins, Randy, Tim Canfield, C. Duike, L. Kapustka, A. Nahlik, AND R. Schäfer. Using ecological production functions to link ecological processes to ecosystem services. Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management. Allen Press, Inc., Lawrence, KS, 13(1):52-61, (2017).


This manuscript was written as part of a series of articles produced at a 2014 Pellston Workshop hosted by SETAC/ESA and held in Shepherdstown, West Virginia with the goal of improving the consideration of ecosystem services in decision making.


Ecological production functions (EPFs) link ecosystems, stressors, and management actions to ecosystem services (ES) production. Although EPFs are acknowledged as being essential to improve environmental management, their use in ecological risk assessment has received relatively little attention. Ecological production functions may be defined as usable expressions (i.e., models) of the processes by which ecosystems produce ES, often including external influences on those processes. We identify key attributes of EPFs and discuss both actual and idealized examples of their use to inform decision making. Whenever possible, EPFs should estimate final, rather than intermediate, ES. Although various types of EPFs have been developed, we suggest that EPFs are more useful for decision making if they quantify ES outcomes, respond to ecosystem condition, respond to stressor levels or management scenarios, reflect ecological complexity, rely on data with broad coverage, have performed well previously, are practical to use, and are open and transparent. In an example using pesticides, we illustrate how EPFs with these attributes could enable the inclusion of ES in ecological risk assessment. The biggest challenges to ES inclusion are limited data sets that are easily adapted for use in modeling EPFs and generally poor understanding of linkages among ecological components and the processes that ultimately deliver the ES. We conclude by advocating for the incorporation into EPFs of added ecological complexity and greater ability to represent the trade-offs among ES. Integr Environ Assess Manag 2017;13:52–61. © 2016 SETAC.

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Record Details:

Product Published Date: 01/01/2017
Record Last Revised: 04/13/2018
OMB Category: Other
Record ID: 335533