Definition of Ecological Risk

Risk is defined as the probability that an undesired event will occur. Correspondingly, ecological risk refers to the probability of the occurrence of an undesired ecological event. Alternative definitions of risk include an evaluation of the consequences of the undesired event along with estimation of its occurrence. For the most part, risk pertains to the probability of occurrence and this definition will serve this presentation.

ERA originally focused on the undesired ecological effects of toxic chemicals. As ERA evolved, the set of stressors has expanded to include physical, geological, hydrological, and biological stressors. Examples of these kinds of stressors include physical habitat degradation, erosion of soils or sediments, drought/floods, and introductions of exotic species. One testament to the conceptual soundness of this approach to ERA has been its successful application to nonchemical stressors.

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