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2012 Extreme Stress Events and Ecosystem Recovery (EXCESS) Annual Report

Extreme Stress Events and Ecosystem Recovery

Excess will assemble the available expertise within SETAC on the quantification of ecosystem-level effects of extreme stress events and subsequent recovery. The scale of the exposure and the high level of biological organization at which effects will be studied (populations, communities, ecosystems) will be the unique niche of the extreme stress IG. Apart from being a platform for scientific discussion and collaboration, the new SETAC IG will also serve as a communication channel to improve the exchange between (a) stakeholder needs and expectations, and (b) the capacities and goals of quantitative ecotoxicological approaches that encompass higher levels of biological organisation. Such two-way interactions will increase the economical and societal relevance of these tools and the ecological relevance of management goals.

Scope: Approaches, Stressor Types, Endpoints

No restrictions will be put on the approaches that are used to study these topics. In particular, we would be interested in assembling expertise in statistical and mechanistic modelling, but also in biological and chemical monitoring techniques that describe population and ecosystem status and chemical exposure. In addition, scientists are welcomed with an expertise in experimental approaches that can test hypotheses generated through models and/or statistical analyses of field data.

The types of stressors that will be considered include chemicals but also ‘natural’ stressors such as flooding events, drought or storms. The motivation to include both types of stressors is considered useful because it would allow examining if natural stressors can be considered as a model for chemical stressors and vice versa. If relationships exist between effects of natural stressors and effects of chemical stressors, data on ecosystem responses to such natural stressors can be used to predict responses to chemical stressors, as such increasing the amount of data on which ecosystem management can be based.

Considered endpoints on which effects are to be discussed by the IG will be proxies of ecosystem structure (e.g. biodiversity) and functioning (e.g. biomass production, elemental cycling).

Specific Questions/Goals to be Addressed by the IG

  • What ecosystem components should we focus on to detect delayed effects and early signals of ecosystem recovery?
  • Which ecosystem-level endpoints correspond best to the protection goals defined by environmental management actions?
  • Generate an overview of available data on stressed ecosystems: What endpoints are typically measured? Are pre-stress (base line) data available?
    • Setting up / exchanging databases that can be used for the development and refinement of existing effect assessment approaches.
  • Compare data availability with data needs for environmental management.
  • To what extent can we predict ecosystem-level effects following an extreme stress event?
  • How well do observed ecosystem effects in the field correspond to those observed in micro- or mesocosm experiments or in (controlled) semi-field conditions?
  • How can we set up a structure through which the group can discuss and disseminate their scientific assessments and advice following an extreme event in a fast and efficient way?


The composition of the IG is intended to adhere to the basic SETAC guidelines, i.e. comparable representations from academia, industry, government and non-profit organizations. The IG is open to any interested parties and both scientists and students are encouraged to join. SETAC membership is not required but may facilitate access to SETAC’s scientific activities and publications. The organisation of the IG is done by a steering committee of 10 to 15 people. The SC votes the chair(s) of the IG. It is preferred that members of the SC do not serve more than 4 years. When a person leaves the SC, all members present at the next IG meeting will nominate a substitute, preferably in such a way that the balance of the SC is respected.

Steering Committee

Steering Committee

Frederik De Laender (chair, UGent, Belgium, Academia)
Dick de Zwart (RIVM, The Netherlands)
Lucia Guilhermino (co- chair, University of Porto, Portugal, Academia)
Francesco Pomati (Eawag, Switzerland, Academia)
Thomas G. Preuss (RWTH, Germany, Academia)
Anne Alix (DOW chemicals)
Sabine Duquesne (Federal Environment Agency Germany, Government)
Peter Goethals (UGent, Belgium, Academia)
Tido Strauss (RWTH, Germany, Academia)
Chris Klok (IMARES, the Netherlands, Academia)
Mathijs Smit (Statoil Research Centre, Norway, Industry)
Malyka Galay-Burgos (Ecetoc, EU, Industry)
Almut Gerhardt (LimCo, Germany, Industry)
Matthias Liess (UFZ, Germany, Academia)