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EPA EcoBox

EPA EcoBox Tools by Receptors - Habitats and Ecosystems


Habitat and EcosystemsERAs can adverse ecological effects Helpadverse ecological effects Changes that are considered undesirable because they alter valued structural or functional characteristics of ecosystems or their components. An evaluation of adversity may consider the type, intensity, and scale of the effect as well as the potential for recovery. beyond the individual or species level and might consider effects at a larger scale like a habitat or ecosystem. Potentially exposed habitats might include sensitive or critical habitats of species protected under the ESA.

For a habitat or ecosystem, an array of assessment endpoints Helpassessment endpoints An explicit expression of the environmental value to be protected, operationally defined as an ecological entity and its attributes. that represent the community and associated ecological processes might be more effective than a single endpoint. Adverse effects on a habitat or ecosystem might be inferred from changes in structure (components), function (processes), and other characteristics that reduce its ability to support plant and animal populations and communities.

Ecosystem goods and services include benefits human receive from nature. For example, ecological functions and processes that directly or indirectly benefits to human such as clean air and water, flood control, and fertile soil. Incorporating ecosystem service endpoints into ERAs may improve risk communication and risk management decisions. EPA recently expanded the Generic Ecological Assessment Endpoints (GEAEs) by adding generic ecosystem services endpoints (U.S. EPA 2016).

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There are several habitat- and ecosystem-level tools shown below that might be helpful in conducting an ERA.

In addition to the tools shown below, there are many available sources of information and data related to the fate and transport of contaminants in environmental media and the transfer of contaminants from an environmental medium to receptor. See the Chemical module of the Stressors Tool Set for information and tools on fate and transport related to chemical stressors.

See the Food Chains and Webs module of the Exposure Pathways (Media) Tool Set for information, data sources, and modeling tools available to help in the evaluation of food chain and food web contaminant transfers in an ERA.

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