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Assessment and Management of Ecological Risks ELLIS B. COWLING North Carolina State University WLADYSLAW GRODZINSKI Jagiellonian University ALICIA BREYMEYER Institute of Geography and Spatial Organization The purpose of this joint publication by the Polish Academy of Sciences (PAN) and the National Academy of Sciences of the United States (NAS) is to help our two countries learn more about the assessment and management of ecological risk. The interest of our two Academies to collaborate in this endeavor is an outgrowth of concern about the current state of our natural heritage. IMPORTANCE OF ECOSYSTEMS FOR HUMANS The prosperity and quality of life in every nation depend on a long list of natural endowments. These gifts from the evolutionary history of our planet vary greatly from continent to continent, country to country, locality to locality, and time to time (Conable, 1987; Brundtland, 1987~. In the cases of Poland and the United States, our natural heritage includes: a wide diversity of valuable plants, animals, and microorganisms; abundant air and water; productive soils, farmlands, forests, and aquatic ecosystems; beautiful mountains, lakes, streams, and rivers; valuable wilder- ness, coastal areas, wetlands, and groundwaters. Throughout our history, every man, woman, and child has had good reason to care about the quality and stability of these natural resources. We care because so much of our economic and social well-being as individuals and as peoples is affected. But the history of our two countries shows that we still have a great deal to learn about how to care enough and to be wise enough to be good stewards of our natural resources to fulfill the vision that seers such as Aldo Leopold (1968) had for a land ethic, that Van Rensselaer Potter (1959, 1987) had for a society committed to ecological 3
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4 ECOLOGICAL RISKS bioethics, and that Brundtland (1987) had for a world society committed to sustainable development. The processes of urbanization and industrialization have added greatly to the challenges of continuing the economic development in our societies while maintaining the quality of our environment, the productivity and health of our people, and the stability of the ecosystems on which our life depends. Successive generations of Poles and Americans have had progressively higher expectations than their predecessors for wholesome food, clean drinking water, material possessions, travel, education, satisfying jobs, enjoyable living and working conditions, and personal, social, and national security. All these aspirations have added to the demands of our people for an ever-increasing standard of living. Unfortunately, however, they also have added many waste materials which circulate through the air, land, surface waters, groundwaters, ecosystems, and all the living things with which we share our life on this planet. Success in the conservation, wise use, and protection of ecosystems and other natural resources requires that scientists, industrial and political leaders, and citizens in every aspect of society learn a great deal more about: the distinctive features and dynamics of the ecosystems and other natural resources of our countries; · the industrial, social, political, technical, and economic systems by which these resources are managed; and · appropriate methods by which to assess the nature and magnitude of risks to ecosystems caused by both deliberate and inadvertent human activities. Such understanding is needed by citizens and industry leaders in every local community or district, as well as within the state and federal governments of our own and neighboring countries (fillet and Murota, 1987~. These three types of knowledge provide the foundation for making wise (or unwise) choices about alternative means by which to: · produce the goods and services our people need (or think they need); while maintaining the productivity and stability of the ecosystems on which the quality and abundance of our life depends (Breymeyer, 1986; Brundtland, 1987; NAS, 1986~. An especially important part of these scientific and educational chal- lenges is to learn how to properly dispose of all the waste materials that our modern sidles of living introduce into the air, waters, and soils of the cities, towns, villages, farms, forests, and the wilderness and recreational areas of our countries. As discussed more fully in the various chapters
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OVERVIEW s of this book, both Poland and the United States have had some satisfying successes and some spectacular failures in developing systems for proper disposal of wastes. The purpose of this book is to review some of the concepts that societies must use to improve our assessments of risks and our management of ecosystems. Case histories are presented by authors from both countries to illustrate the advantages and limitations of several different methods. Before we begin, however, a few definitions are in order. DEFINITIONS Ecosystems Ecosystems are composed of biotic (living) and abiotic (nonliving) components. The biotic components consist of three general types of living organisms: · producers: green plants that capture the energy of the sun and produce organic matter; · consumers: including humans and other animals that utilize as their energy sources the food materials stored by producers; and · decomposers: mostly microorganisms that obtain their energy by breaking down and converting the dead bodies of organisms into simpler compounds. The abiotic components of ecosystems include air, water, soil, nutrients, the geological substrata, sediment, and both particulate and dissolved dead organic matter. W.L. Smith (1980) described the relationships among ecosystem com- ponents as follows. Ecosystems are energy-processing systems whose com- ponents have evolved together over a long period of time. The boundaries of natural ecosystems are determined by the environment, i.e., by what forms of life can be sustained by environmental conditions of a particu- lar region. Plant and animal populations within the system represent the objects through which the system functions. Ecosystems are also open systems. They receive materials from and contribute to the environment that surrounds them. The environment contributes gases, minerals, and energy. Ecosystems utilize these substances and, in turn, make their own contributions to the environment. Energy flows through the system unidirectionally while water, gases, and minerals are recycled and fed back into the system. Stress occurs in all living organisms when some physical, chemical, or biological feature of the environment is outside the range that is optimal for development of that organism. Stress occurs in a whole ecosystem
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6 ECOLOGICAL RISKS whenever some physical, chemical, or biological feature of the environment causes a significant alteration of the natural dynamics of (i.e., flows of energy and materials through) that system (Odum, 1985~. As ecosystems function, populations of organisms playing similar roles are joined in communities and trophic groups or levels. These large groups contain many species of organisms that act as ecological units and respond to stresses as ecological units. Some examples of the reactions of large groups of soil animals to environmental stress are discussed in Chapter 8 of this volume. Ecological Risk Ecological risk is a condition in which the normal functions of a population, ecosystem, or an entire landscape are threatened by external forces or stress factors which presently or in the future may diminish the health, productivity, genetic structure, economic value, or the aesthetic quality of the system (NAS, 1986, 1987; USEPA, 1983a, 1983b, 1986a). These external forces or stress factors can occur in the form of: medskip · excessive impute of nutrients, toxic pollutant, pesticides, etc; · disturbance of normal energy flows, such as by thermal pollution around a cooling tower or global warming due to so-called "greenhouse gases"; drastic changes in the rates of ecosystem processes, such as by drying of peatlands or flooding of tropical grasslands, thus speeding up or slowing down decomposition processes; physical destruction of ecosystems, e.g., by compaction of soils in city parks, excessive grazing of rangelands, burning of forests or grasslands, or covering with heavy loads of volcanic or industrial dusts; or · introduction of virulent pathogens such as parasitic, pathogenic, or predacious fungi, insects, bacteria, viruses, etc. Ecological Risk Assessment The assessment of ecological risk is the process of: · quantifying the probability that adverse ecological effects may, or are, occurring as a result of exposure to one or more stress factors; determining the quantitative significance of such adverse effects; and · determining how to manage the ecosystem or the sources of the stress factors so that effects can be maintained within limits that are acceptable to society (Andrews, 1987; Kates, 1978; U.S.EPA, 1987a, 1987b).
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OVERVIEW 7 In practice, airborne and waterborne pollutant chemicals are among the most common stress factors of concern to society. Also, in most ecological risk assessments, the most important ecosystem components of concern are populations or communities of living organisms. In Chapter 8 of this volume, Breymeyer proposes production and decomposition of organic matter as measurable ecosystem processes at risk. Similarly, in Chapter 15, Ryszkowski proposes circulation of some nutrient elements in agricultural landscapes as a measurable process at risk Thus, most ecological risk assessments involve identification of one or more of the following: · the types and species of organisms that are at risk within a given ecosystem; · the rate of production of organic matter and/or other ecosystem processes; · the nature, concentrations, and timing of pollutant chemical expo- sures that occur within the system; · the nature and magnitude of the response of the organisms or ecosystems to the stress imposed by pollutant chemicals (dose/response relationships); · the physiological, biogeochemical, or ecological processes by which the pollutant chemicals induce their detrimental effects (mechanisms); the sources of pollutant chemicals that cause stress within the ecosystem; and . the management procedures (e.g., changes in species composition, alterations of managed ecosystems, restructuring of landscapes, modifica- tions of industrial or other processes, regulatory policies, emissions limita- tions, mitigative treatments, or other methods) by which the exposure of a given ecosystem to pollutant chemicals can be maintained within acceptable limits; and/or the effects of the pollutant chemical within the ecosystem can be mitigated (i.e., maintained within acceptable limits). In many cases, the formal process of ecological risk assessment within a given organization (such as a federal, state, or provincial department of environmental protection, or a specific private industry or government enterprise) may include only one or a given set of the procedures listed above. AN ILLUSTRATION OF CONFLICTS BETWEEN DESIRABLE GOALS IN SOCIETY The assessment of ecological risks associated with the widespread use of pesticides in plant and animal agriculture presents a good example of the challenges in ecological risk assessment. Here the conflict between desirable
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8 ECOLOG CAL RISKS goals of society is especially poignant because it involves a conflict between two taboos the taboo against "bugs and filth" and the taboo against "poisons in our food and water." The departments of agriculture in most countries are charged to pro- vide wholesome food for the people. The food and drug laws of the United States, for example, state that food must not be "... filthy, putrid, or unfit for human consumption." Those are powerful words and agricultural sci- entists heard them loud and clear! They responded by developing chemical pesticides to help keep the bugs and filth out of our food. And soon, a grateful society gave Mueller a Nobel Prize for discovering DDT. But then it was discovered that DDT and some other pesticides were not very biologically degradable. DDT tended to accumulate in the body fat of all the people who ate the food that was free of "bugs and filth." Furthermore, DDT could be dispersed in the air to many non-target or- ganisms. Before long it was discovered that DDT accumulated in the body fat of penguins in Antartica where DDT was never used! Now the taboo against "poisons in our food" (and in innocent penguins near the South Pole) came into conflict with the taboo against "bugs and filth." Thus, a new assessment was called for and soon many countries around the world prohibited the use of DDT. CONTRASTS ANI) SIMILARITIES BETWEEN POLAND AND THE UNITED STATES The current environmental situation is quite different in Poland and the United States. In both countries there exist some areas of very high environmental quality and others of great environmental impact. Examples of the latter in the United States include the San Bernardino Valley of California, some parts of the Great Lakes, and the steel production areas near Gary, Indiana. In Poland they include Upper Silesia, the Krakow region, lbroszow, Pulawy, and several other areas. The essential difference, however, is that the percentage of heavily impacted areas is greater in Poland; such areas encompass practically the entire southwestern part of the country. In Poland, both air and water quality have been decreasing over the past 30 to 40 years as the country has sought to use its substantial reserves of high-sulfur coal in heavy industry. In the United States, both air and water quality have improved in many parts of the country as the economy has shifted away from its earlier dependence on heavy industry and responded to the requirements of the Clean Air Act of 1970 and the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1972. In Poland, the most severe air-quality problems are emissions of sulfur dioxide and industrial dusts and aerosols in the southwestern part of the
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OVERVIEW i''Ail YEARLY FALL OF SULFUR COUNT IN EURO FIGURE 1 Distribution of sulfur pollution over Europe. Please note especially the so- called "black spot" of Europe which includes the southwestern part of Poland and portions of Czechoslovakia and the German Democratic Republic. The data shown are for the period December 1978 through March 1982. country. In the eastern United States, by contrast, the most severe air qual- ity problem is ozone and other photochemical oxidants which accumulate in the atmosphere mainly in the eastern half of the country and in southern California. In Poland, the most important air pollutants are emitted directly from industrial smoke stacks in the form of gaseous sulfur dioxide and industrial dusts. In the eastern United States, by contrast, the most important air pollutants are not emitted directly from industrial sources; ozone, other photochemical oxidants, and acid deposition are formed in the atmosphere from a complex mixture of nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds released by both mobile and stationary sources.
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10 ECOLOGICAL RISKS In Poland, geographical gradients from major cities to the surrounding countryside are fairly steep, typically decreasing by a factor of ten over distances of 10 to 100 kilometers. In the United States, by contrast, geo- graphical gradients in ozone pollution are fairly shallow, typically decreasing by a factor of two over distances of 100 to 500 kilometers. In Poland, sulfur-dioxide and dust-pollution problems are more or less constant throughout the year. In the United States, by contrast, ozone pollution is a problem only during the summer months. The maps in Figures 1 and 2 show a part of this story. The southwestern part of Poland lies in the so-called "black spot" of the European continent (see Figure 1~. Here, heavy industries from three nations (Czechoslovakia, the German Democratic Republic, and Poland) are concentrated in a small area. This is the most polluted area in all of Europe. Most of the territory of Poland lies in the path of dominant southwesterly winds. Thus, much of the country receives a heavy dose of sulfur and dust pollution in all seasons of the year. The area of highest ozone pollution in the eastern United States forms a broad band across the southern part of the country (see Figure 2~. Here, many different mobile and stationary sources emit nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds which are precursors for photochemical oxida- tion reactions. High concentrations of ozone accumulate in the atmosphere mainly in the summer months when oxidation reaction rates are high and wind speeds are generally low. These contrasts in air quality (see Chapters 9-12), and those in water quality (see Chapters 18 and 19) are caused in part by differences in the area and population density of the two countries. But they are also caused by differences in the history of industrialization, electrification, and urban- ization, different energy resources and policies, and some geographical and political influences. The discovery of many similarities and differences in the ecological risks confronting a middle-sized European country and a very large North American country was very fascinating to the participants in the PAN-NAS workshops. We hope it will also be instructive and of general interest to the ecologists, economists, and environmental protection specialists for whom this book was written. OVERVIEW OF THE BOOK This book is organized in seven distinct sections: Overview and Executive Summary (Chapters 1 and 23; Environmental Management Concepts (Chapters 3-6~; · Human Effects on the Terrestrial Environment (Chapters 7-14~; · Agricultural Impacts on Environmental Quality (Chapters 15-16~; · Impacts on Aquatic Ecosystems (Chapters 17-19~;
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12 ECOLOGICAL RISKS · Environmental Management Case Studies (Chapters 20-23~; · Recommendations (Chapter 24~. OUR HOPE FOR THE FUTURE The editors of this book hope every reader will find the Executive Summary in Chapter 2 and the Recommendations in Chapter 24 especially valuable. But more importantly, we hope you find that the volume as a whole illustrates Oliver Wendell Holmes' conviction that: Man's mind, stretched to embrace a new idea, never returns to its original . . . almenslons. Preserving and restoring the natural heritage of our two countries is both an "evolutionary possibility and an ecological necessity" (Leopold, 1968~. Mankind as a whole is urgently in need of: · a land ethic (Leopold, 1968~; · a wildlife ethic, a consumption ethic, an international ethic, a geriatric ethic, and so on (Potter, 1987, 1988~; and · a world society committed to the concept of sustainable develop- ment (Brundtland, 1987~. We hope the next generation of scientists and citizens in our two countries and in every nation of the world will do a better job than the present generation in learning both the scientific foundations and the practical arts of ecological risk assessment and risk management. We hope this book will help bring that process closer to realization! REFERENCES Andrews, R.N.L. 1987. Environmental impact assessment and risk assessment: Learning from each other. Task Force on Risk and Polipy Analysis Under Conditions of Uncertainty. International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, Luxenburg, Austria. pp. 19. Breymeyer, A. 1986. Comparative ecology of terrestrial ecosystems: Production/decomposi- tion budget. A proposal for establishment of a SCOPE synthesis of data on organic matter budgets. Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology, Commission on Phys- ical Sciences, Mathematics, and Resources, National Research Council, Washington, D.C. pp. 6. Brundtland, G.H. 1987. Our common future. Report of the World Commission on Environ- ment and Development. Oxford University Press, Cambridge, England. pp. 238. Conable, B.B. 1987. Sound ecology is good business. World Resources Institute, Washington, D.C. pp. 15. Cowling, E.B. 1985. Pollutants in the air and acids in the rain: Influences on our natural environment and a challenge for every industrial society. XXV Horace M. Albright Conservation Lecture, College of Natural Resources, University of California, Berkeley. pp. 26. Kates, R.W. 1978. Risk assessment of environmental hazard. SCOPE 8. New York: John Wiley and Sons, pp. 112.
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OVERVIEW 13 Leopold, A. 1968. A sand county almanac. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, pp. 226. National Academy Sciences (NAS). 1986. Ecological knowledge and environmental problem solving: Concepts and case studies. Committee on the Applications of Ecological Theory to Environmental Problems, Commission on Life Sciences, National Research Council. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, pp. 388. NAS. 1987. The mono basin ecosystem: Effects of changing lake level. Mono Basin Ecosystem Study Committee, Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology, Com- mission on Physical Sciences, Mathematics, and Resources, National Research Council. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, pp. 270. Odum, E.P. 1985. Itends expected in stressed ecosystems. Bioscience 35:419422. Fillet, G., and T. Murota. 1987. Environmental economics: The analysis of a major interface. Geneva, Switzerland: R. Leimgruber, pp. 320. Potter, V.R. 1987. Aldo Leopold's land ethics revisited: limo kinds of bioethics. Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 30157-10. Potter, V.R. 1988. Global bioethics: Building on the Leopold legacy. East Lansing, Michigan: Michigan State University Press, pp. 203. Smith, W.L~ 1980. Air pollution and forest trees. New York: Academic Press, pp. 384. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 1983a. Testing for environmental effects under the Toxic Substances Control Act. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, D.C., pp. 55. U.S. EPA. 1983b. Estimating "concern levels" for concentrations of chemical substances in the aquatic environment. Office of Environmental Processes and Effects Research, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, D.C., pp. 46. U.S. EPA. 1986a. Hazard Evaluation Division. Standard Evaluation Procedure. Ecological Risk Assessment. Office of Pesticide Programs, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, D.C., pp. 96. U.S. EPA. 1986b. Research plan for ecological risk assessment. Office of Environmental Processes and Ejects Research, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, D.C., p. 6. U.S. EPA. 1987a. Unfinished business: A comparative assessment of environmental problems. Appendix III. Ecological Risk Work Group. Office of Research and Development, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, D.C. U.S. EPA. 1987b. EPA's current ecological risk research program and a strategy for a long-term research and related monitoring program. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, D.C., p. 44.
Representative terms from entire chapter: