human health and well-being depend on the goods (for example, clean air and water) and services (for example, groundwater recharge, carbon sequestration, pollination, and seed dispersal) that are provided by ecosystems. Ecosystem health protection will require an expansion of problem-solving approaches that recognize that humans are an integral part of complex ecosystems that operate on wide spatiotemporal scales and varying levels of biologic organization, with consideration of exposures occurring both outside and inside exposed organisms.
The better we understand the complex interactions and feedbacks among the various human and nonhuman components of ecosystems, the better we will understand the spatial and temporal variability in risk and magnitude of exposure. Incorporating ecologic information into exposure assessments will allow us to identify how ecosystems cause, buffer, or magnify exposures. By broadening the view of receptors to include both ecologic and human receptors through the eco-exposome concept, exposure science will be able to connect stressors to changes in ecosystem function and in the ecologic goods and services on which society depends. From an operational perspective, the first step toward that integration will occur during the problem-formulation stage, where the human—ecology linkages can be articulated explicitly. In broadening their view of receptors, researchers and regulators will consider not only human health outcomes but, when it is feasible, ecosystem attributes and their interdependences.
Major challenges in exposure science, combined with the opportunities presented by new technologies, suggest the need for a transformation in exposure science. Strategic investments in this transformation are crucial for development of health-protective strategies in the 21st century. The investments must address strategies for research, education and training, and outreach for the development of collaborative and responsive frameworks for implementing these strategies in a resource-constrained environment. Moving forward with such a vision will provide a strong scientific basis for policy decisions that are responsive to a broad array of stakeholders.
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