Date of this Version
Published in Journal of Environmental Radioactivity 136 (2014), pp. 98-104; doi: 10.1016/j.jenvrad.2014.05.017
Radiation protection goals for ecological resources are focused on ecological structures and functions at population-, community-, and ecosystem-levels. The current approach to radiation safety for non-human biota relies on organism-level endpoints, and as such is not aligned with the stated overarching protection goals of international agencies. Exposure to stressors can trigger non-linear changes in ecosystem structure and function that cannot be predicted from effects on individual organisms. From the ecological sciences, we know that important interactive dynamics related to such emergent properties determine the flows of goods and services in ecological systems that human societies rely upon. A previous Task Group of the IUR (International Union of Radioecology) has presented the rationale for adding an Ecosystem Approach to the suite of tools available to manage radiation safety. In this paper, we summarize the arguments for an Ecosystem Approach and identify next steps and challenges ahead pertaining to developing and implementing a practical Ecosystem Approach to complement organism-level endpoints currently used in radiation safety.