, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 9-23

Endpoints for regional ecological risk assessments

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Abstract

Ecological risk assessments must have clearly defined endpoints that are socially and biologically relevant, accessible to prediction and measurement, and susceptible to the hazard being assessmed. Most ecological assessments do not have such endpoints, in part because the endpoints of toxicity tests or other measurements of effects are used as assessment endpoints. This article distinguishes assessment and measurement endpoints in terms of their roles in risk assessments and explains how the criteria for their selection differ. It then presents critical discussions of possible assessment and measurement endpoints for regional ecological risk assessments. Finally, the article explains how endpoint selection is affected by the goal of the assessment. Generic goals for regional risk assessment include explanation of observed regional effects, evaluation of an action with regional implications, and evaluation of the state of a region. Currently, population level assessment endpoints such as abundance and range are the most generally useful. For higher levels (ecosystems and regions), data are generally not available and the validity of models has not been demonstrated, and for lower level effects (physiological, and organismal) are not relevant. However, landscape descriptors, material export, and other regional-scale measurement end-points show promise for regional assessments.