The use of ecological models to assess the effects of a plant protection product on ecosystem services provided by an orchard

Brink, Paul J. Van den; Alix, Anne; Thorbek, Pernille; Baveco, Hans; Agatz, Annika; Faber, Jack H.; Brown, A.R.; Marshall, Stuart; Maltby, Lorraine


The objective of this case study was to explore the feasibility of using ecological models for applying an ecosystem services-based approach to environmental risk assessment using currently available data and methodologies. For this we used a 5 step approach: 1) selection of environmental scenario, 2) ecosystem service selection, 3) development of logic chains, 4) selection and application of ecological models and 5) detailed ecosystem service assessment. The study system is a European apple orchard managed according to integrated pest management principles. An organophosphate insecticide was used as the case study chemical. Four ecosystem services are included in this case study: soil quality regulation, pest control, pollination and recreation. Logic chains were developed for each ecosystem service and describe the link between toxicant effects on service providing units and ecosystem services delivery. For the soil quality regulation ecosystem service, springtails and earthworms were the service providing units, for the pest control ecosystem service it was ladybirds, for the pollination ecosystem service it was honeybees and for the recreation ecosystem service it was the meadow brown butterfly. All the ecological models addressed the spatio-temporal magnitude of the direct effects of the insecticide on the service providing units and ecological production functions were used to extrapolate these outcomes to the delivery of ecosystem services. For all ecosystem services a decision on the acceptability of the modelled and extrapolated effects on the service providing units could be made using the protection goals as set by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Developing quantitative ecological production functions for extrapolation of ecosystem services delivery from population endpoints remains one of the major challenges. We feel that the use of ecological models can greatly add to this development, although the further development of existing ecological models, and of new models, is needed for this.