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Recommendations for a Science-Based Program of Ecological Risk Assessment and Environmental Protection STANLEY I. AUERBACH Oak Ridge National Laboratory ALAN W. MAKI Exxon Company, USA Threats to the life-support systems of the planet Earth need to become the concern of the social and political systems of every nation. These threats result from many deliberate and inadvertent activities of human beings in every society. While there is growing international recognition of environmental problems, preventive and corrective actions and policies have not been put forth quickly for a number of reasons. These reasons include ignorance, differing priorities among social groups within the same society, political or social apathy, lack of financial resources, and lack of qualified personnel. In this book we have tried to meld the ecological perspectives and ideals of two differing societies in the hope of identifying common goals and general procedures by which to improve the assessment and management of ecological risks. Some readers may not be aware of the official policies on matters of environment in the East European countries. All of the participants in these U.S.-Polish workshops were surprised to learn how similar the official policies of East European countries were to those of the United States and other western countries. For this reason, we recommend Chapter 20 where ltojan has summarized the official policies of East European countries in a way that provides a useful frame of reference for the recommendations that have been developed in this chapter and some of the other chapters of this boot These official policies reflect a combination of political, economic, and social ideals which may affect the degree and intensity of implementation of action programs. We hope the recommendations for research discussed in this book will be consistent with governmental policies. Both publicly and privately supported research is needed on the concepts of ecological risk assessment and the management procedures that are necessary to develop 389
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390 ECOLOGICAL RISKS MONITORING PROGRAMS FIELD DATA TRENDS ANALYSIS F__________q 1 I ECOLOGICAL RISK ASSESSMENT SCOPE OF PROBLEM I DEVELOPMENt OF | SCIENCE BASED POLICY ECODEVELOPMENT ENVIRONI IIENTAL MATS TO ECONOMIC D~ELO~ PUBLIC | EDUCATED | IMPLEMENTATION ~ OF ENVIRONMENTAL ~ _ CONTROL TECHNOLOGY ~ RE-ASSFS4;UENT OF NEEDS _ FOR ~IRONM~AL MONITORING RESTORATION AND RECOVERY OF IMPACTED AREAS FIGURE 1 Conceptual framework for a research-based environmental policy and restora- tion program for pollution-impacted ecosystems. comprehensive programs to assess ecosystem exposures, quantify ecological impacts, and develop policies for management of ecological risks. Figure 1 provides a conceptual framework for a research-based envi- ronmental policy and restoration program for pollution-impacted ecosys- tems. It begins with the enhancement of ecological awareness and ends ideally with the prevention, protection, restoration, and/or recovery of im- pacted ecosystems. Thus, we believe it is a blueprint for development of enlightened environmental policy not only in Poland and the United States but in many other countries of the world. Figure 1 also underscores the fact that carefully designed environmen- tal monitoring programs are essential for the identification and quantifica- tion of ecological trends, such as changing forest productivity or buildup of heavy metals in river sediments. With such data in hand, the scope of existing or potential problems can be identified and the magnitude of
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RECOMMENDATIONS 391 environmental risks can be assessed. Environmental scientists, leaders in industry, and regulatory officials can use the results of these assessments to develop science-based recommendations for voluntary and/or regulatory actions to prevent, decrease, or ameliorate key environmental problems. Public education and recognition of environmental limits to economic de- velopment are essential no matter which preventive or ameliorative actions may be required. This education ideally should include all segments of society, from school children to leaders in industry, regulatory agencies, and the public at large. All groups must recognize that the capacity of the environment to assimilate wastes is not infinite, and that breakdown of ecological structure and function will occur if the limits of ecosystem resiliency are not understood and respected. Most detrimental impacts of changes in air or water quality can be ameliorated by control technologies which can lead to the eventual restora- tion and recovery of impacted ecosystems. Clearly, continued economic development will require regular reassessment of needs for environmental monitoring. Data from such long-term monitoring can then be used to feed back to the beginning of the sequence for reanalysis of trends and reassess- ment of incremental environmental risks resulting from altered plans for industrial, residential, commercial, or recreational development (Figure 1~. SYNTHESIS AND INTEGRATION Air Pollution Impacts Monitoring and lYends Analysis Very large parts of the environmental research programs in both the United States and Poland are devoted to the development of monitoring data for air, water quality, and ecological trends. Indeed, the majority of data discussed during the workshops regarding terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems was the direct result of ongoing monitoring programs. Moni- toring is an essential first step in ecological risk assessment. One of the projects recommended for future collaboration between the United States and Poland is a cooperative research activity aimed at characterizing effects on forest ecosystems from air pollution and other future environmental stresses. An important outgrowth of the first NAS- PAN workshop was a follow-up planning meeting for a joint U.S./Polish program subtitled "Long-term Ecological Monitoring of Forests." A group of American and Polish forest scientists met in Poland in 1988 and made the following recommendations: ∑ All ecosystem parameters are characterized by natural trends and variability; we must be able to recognize if observed variability exceeds the range of normal variability.
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392 ECOLOGICAL RISKS ∑ Long-term measurements are needed long-term being defined as more than 30 years. ∑ Measurements of greatest potential are those that enable pre-visual detection of change and integration of the effects of several stress factors. ∑ Monitoring should not be static. The linkages between research on field monitoring and mathematical modeling of ecosystem processes must be interactive. Monitoring programs must be designed to include changes in methods that research identifies as being useful to meet the monitoring objectives. ∑ Because of the diversity of ecological responses to environmental stresses, decisions should be made early in a monitoring program as to what constitutes a significant change. Just because something is detectable does not mean that it is important. On the other hand, many changes in an ecosystem that ultimately are important may be subtle and difficult to detect. ∑ The monitoring approach must identify those ecosystem values that are important and develop indicator measurements that can be used to assess changes in those values. ∑ The first goal of the proposed monitoring system should be to eval- uate changes caused by air pollution. Later, however, other environmental stress factors should be included. ∑ A pilot monitoring project focusing on the United States and Poland should be implemented with collaboration also in other European countries. Emphasis should be on intensity of effort rather than extent. If all parameters can not be monitored, an attempt should be made to include as many integrative factors as possible. Issues of environmental protection should be viewed ~ a complex way through a systems-analysis approach that encompasses all interdependencies among social needs, economic activity, and environmental conditions. For ease of analysis as well as tractability, subsystems should serge as the scale of analysis. One of the most significant subsystems is energy supply and its environmental effects. As noted in Chapter 23, within the selected subsystem of energy and environment interactions there are a number of areas requiring further research. These include: . improvement and verification of air pollution dispersion models; ∑ construction and improvement of models of pollutant circulation in biogeochemical cycles; and ∑ estimation of damage to the environment caused by emission of specific pollutants a process which should consider all existing interde- pendencies of various pollutants.
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RECOMMENDATIONS 393 Ecological Risk Assessment Once environmental monitoring data have been developed for pol- lutants and ecosystems of interest, decisions regarding significance of the observed trends and concentrations of pollutants must be made. All too frequently, monitoring data are developed at considerable expense with no clear concept of how the data are to be used and, more importantly, how the significance of the observed values will be determined. In its simplest form, risk assessment involves comparisons between known or estimated concentrations of particular pollutants and measure- ments of ecological effects or toxicological data for indicator species. This comparison selves as the basis for definition of "concentrations of concern" and for deciding whether environmental or human-health risks are accept- able or unacceptable. When monitoring shows that concentrations of a particular pollutant In the environment exceed known toxic concentrations, an appropriate control strategy is needed to limit discharge of this material into the environment. Conversely, when biological effects are known to occur only at concentrations in excess of those monitored in the environ- ment, concerns are minimized. Thus, a procedure for regular comparison of environmental monitoring data with biological effects data yields an objective data base with which to prioritize environmental problems and manage ecological risks, i.e., a science-based policy. Development of Science-Based Policy In a very real sense, essentially all regulatory initiatives and much current environmental decision making have a basis in the nsk-assessment approach, i.e., comparison of environmental-fate and environmental-effects information. Air and water qualifier standards are developed to protect human health and the environment. These standards recognize the im- portance of relating the known biological effects of particular pollutants to real-world exposures. Similarly, criteria for toxic pollutants are devel- oped from comparisons and predictions of biological effects with resultant workplace or other environmental exposures. Much current land-use planning and assessment of potential impacts from industrial development also involve comparisons of ecological effects with predicted impacts of the proposed activity. For example, the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) in the United States requires that an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) be assembled for new developments which may have substantial impacts on the environment. The EIS describes the biological structure and function of the existing ecosystem as a baseline and then predicts how this baseline is expected to be altered by the proposed development in a risk assessment context. Decisions on the acceptability of
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394 ECOLOGIC ~5M a proposed project, suggested alternatives, and mitigative measures are all made based on the severity of changes from the baseline functions of the ecosystem. Thus, scientific information gathered from carefully designed and conducted field and laboratory programs provides the foundation for current decision making and the development of future environmental . . pot .~. Ecodevelopment: Environmental Limits to Economic Development In Chapter 4, Marek and KAssenberg discuss the concept of ecodevel- opment, recogmzing that ecological factors can place finite limits on the extent of economic development. This concept recognizes that humans have had an impact on the environment as a result of day-to-day activities since before-recorded history. As human populations have increased and associated economic development has proceeded, impacts have become pro- gressively more severe. Contemporary ecological stresses are demonstrated by chronically degraded air and water quality, as well as the breakdown of ecological structure and function in areas that are most severely impacted. In these heavily impacted areas of Poland and the United States, we have come to realize that the capacity of the environment to assimilate wastes is not infinite, and that degradation of environmental values is the inevitable result of over-stressed ecosystems. Guidelines for Sustainable Agricultural Development In Chapter 15, Ryszkowski proposes a series of guidelines for sustain- able development related to sound ecological management of agricultural areas: ∑ Relate the structure and magnitude of agricultural production to the natural environment. ∑ Introduce new technologies to ensure that agricultural enterprises internalize the costs of restoring impacted ecosystems. ∑ Introduce landscape-level planning to ensure that ecological struc- ture and function are maintained in areas under increasing pressures to intensify agricultural production. Public Education There is a continuing need for environmental scientists to present the results of their research with clear and concise conclusions for leaders in industry and government and the public at large. Ambiguous and inconclu- sive data, or data from poorly designed programs, should be avoided they serge only to obscure public understanding of complex ecological issues. In
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RECOMMENDATIONS 395 Chapter 20, Trojan points to the "collision of interests" between industrial development and environmental concerns. He cites the need for enhanced education programs to produce good researchers and to keep the public fully informed of environmental consequences of planned activities. IMPLEMENTATION OF ENVIRONMENTAL CONTROL TECHNOLOGY In closing this summary chapter, we refer again to the "Conceptual Framework for a Research-Based Environmental Policy and Restoration Program for Pollution Impacted Ecosystems" shown in Figure 1. In the course of this chapter, we have progressed from trends analysis and risk assessment to development of science-based policy and public education. The key to success in the assessment and management of ecological risk is acceptance and implementation of environmental control technologies that bring about ecological improvements and permit sustained development with minimal further degradation of the environment. Clearly, the control technologies needed to achieve many contemporary environmental goals are already available. Equally clear are the high costs of implementation. Although the costs of not implementing necessary environmental management are less widely recognized, they are no less real. The ecological situation in many areas of the United States and Poland are critical; both environmental concerns and human health are at serious risk in the most heavily developed areas of both countries. If economic development and the qualifier of life in our societies are to be improved, then the costs of environmental control technologies such as wastewater treatment, clean-coal technologies, use of air scrubbers and precipitators, and more ecologically sound methods for agriculture and forest management must be factored into development decisions. We believe that Figure 1 contains the keys to success in the assessment and management of ecological risks, not only in the United States and Poland but in many other countries of the world as well. REFERENCES Auerbach, S.I. 1989. Monitoring the environment in the 21st century. In the Proceedings of the Second U.S.-USSR Symposium on Air Pollution Effects on Vegetation, R.D. Noble, J.L" Martin, and K.F. Jensen, eds. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest ServiceóNortheastern Forest Experiment Station. Barnthouse, L^W., and G. W. Suter II, eds. 1986. Users manual for ecological risk assessment. Oak Ridge National Laboratoly Report ORNL4251, Oak Ridge, Tenn. Clarke, R., ed. 1986. The handbook of ecological monitoring. New York: Clarendon Press. Cohrssen, JJ., and V.T. Covello. 1989. Risk analysis: A guide to principles and methods for analyzing health and environmental risks. Council on Environmental Quality NTIS ~PB89-137772. U.S. Department of Commerce, Springfield, Va.
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396 ECOLOGICAL RISKS National Research Council. 1983. Risk assessment in the federal government: Managing the process. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. Ruckelshaus, W.D. 1983. Science, risk, and public polipy. Science 221:10261028. Ruckelshaus, W.D. 1984. How to better assess and manage risk. Governance (Spring):3-5. Schweitzer, G.E., and A.S. Phillips, eds. 1986. Monitoring and managing envinronmental impact: American and soviet perspectives. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. Suter, G.W. II, L.W. Barnthouse, and R.V. O'Neill. 1987. Ibeatment of risk in environmental impact assessment. Environmental Management 11:295-303.
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