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Ecological Production Functions Linking Multiple Stressors to Ecosystem Services – A Case Study
Munns, W., A. Kuhn, M. Mazzotta, AND D. Nacci. Ecological Production Functions Linking Multiple Stressors to Ecosystem Services – A Case Study. Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) North America 38th Annual Meeting, Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 12 - 16, 2017.
Use of ecosystem services as endpoints in risk assessment typically requires an understanding of how they are produced by ecological systems, and how human-mediated stressors affect their production. These relationships (called "ecological production functions) can be complex reflecting the realities of nature. We present a case study derived from earlier research characterizing the effects of multiple stressors on common loon (Gavia immer) of ecological production function development to explore how this complexity can be managed. The resulting ecological production function can be used to assess the risks of multiple stressors to an ecosystem service (viewable loons) valued by people of the northern-tier states.
The ecosystem services concept is being used to frame environmental protection goals that guide management of the risks of chemicals. Ecosystem services link changes in ecological systems to the benefits received by people. The use of ecosystem services in risk assessments and the environmental protection decisions they support requires an understanding of the effects of human-mediated stressors on ecological production functions (EPFs), defined as the types, quantities, and interactions of natural features required to generate ecosystem services. Here we describe an EPF that links co-occurring human-mediated stressors to the dynamics of Common Loon (Gavia immer) nesting in New Hampshire lakes to ecological benefits, such as wildlife viewing and housing prices on loon-inhabited lakes. The occurrence and success of nesting loons are affected by diverse interacting stressors operating at different spatial scales, i.e., toxic mercury bioaccumulated in loon eggs (through the consumption of atmospherically-deposited mercury in lake prey fish), water quality declines related to nutrient runoff from increasing shoreline development, and direct human disturbance of nests. This case study highlights the ecological complexity that can be inherent to EPFs and their use when assessing risks to ecosystem services of chemicals in the context of other stressors.
Record Details:Record Type: DOCUMENT (PRESENTATION/SLIDE)
Organization:U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
OFFICE OF RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT
NATIONAL HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS RESEARCH LABORATORY
ATLANTIC ECOLOGY DIVISION