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Linking Ecological Risk Assessment and Economic Benefits

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In November 2004, EPA issued a draft document entitled “NCEE Draft Ecological Benefits Assessment Strategy” (SAB Review version, November 11, 2004). That document outlines a series of action items to advance ecological benefits assessment within the EPA regulatory context. This report responds to particular actions identified in that report, specifically: The efforts presented in this report will help develop ways to use available risk assessment techniques to describe impacts on ecosystems in terms that can be understood by decision makers and are useful for economic valuation.
With the goal of placing existing risk assessment techniques into context, Section 2 of this report presents a review of accepted ecological risk assessment techniques used by U.S. EPA as well as other government agencies. The techniques vary in their input data requirements, level of biological organization, endpoints, spatial scale, regulatory acceptance, and availability. Selected approaches are evaluated for their potential utility for benefits assessment. For example, an ecological risk model may provide endpoints that are easily assessed in economic benefit terms, but if data to support the model are not easily obtained or the model has not before been used in regulatory settings, than there may be practical limits to its use in benefits assessment. Section 3 discusses the availability of literature on economic valuation that could be applied to the types of endpoints each risk model evaluates. These data can serve as the basis of conducting an economic benefits assessment using the various ecological risk techniques discussed.
Sections 4, 5, and 6 present ecological benefits assessment exercises based on published ecological risk studies. Performing the valuation exercise for these case studies illustrates the type of analyses that can be conducted to inform decision makers of economic impacts for similar ecological risk scenarios. Finally, Section 7 discusses future directions to further develop this work, and to aid in a more unified approach to benefits analysis of ecological risks.

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Date Linked: 05/28/2009

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