Ecological risk assessment focuses on evaluating the impacts of human activities on ecological systems and the services they provide. As with human health risk assessment, ecological risk assessment has its roots in estimating exposure and risk or hazard from chemicals in the environment, but has expanded in recent years to include the wide range of stressors facing ecological receptors. Risks due to invasive or non-indigenous species, genetically modified organisms, and climate change are being evaluated. In contrast to the relatively small spatial scales of past assessments, cutting edge assessments are being conducted at much larger spatial scales. In addition to risk calculations, emphasis is now being placed on more effective use of this information to support decision making and long-term planning in the context of ecosystem services.
The US Environmental Protection Agency has published Guidelines for Ecological Risk Assessment (1998) based on the previously developed Framework for Ecological Risk Assessment (1992).
Ecological risk assessment requires effective transdisciplinary collaboration and has much to offer practitioners across the risk spectrum. Indeed, the recent 2009 NAS “Silver Book” specifically highlighted problem formulation as outlined in ecological risk assessment and its relevance to human health risk assessment.
For more information on Ecological Risk Assessment at the US EPA, see: https://www.epa.gov/risk_assessment/ecological-risk.htm.