Applied Ecosystem Services, LLC

The Environmental Issues Doctor

  1. Aquatic biota and water quality

    Regulatory and resource agencies sometimes require collection of benthic macroinvertebrates and/or fish for baseline data or permit compliance. It is too common for them to not know what they will do with the data. Correctly analyzing and interpreting these data yields valuable information that operators and regulators can use to make well-informed decisions regarding Clean Water Act compliance. Aquatic biotic communities reflect ambient water quality conditions much better than do chemical concentrations.
  2. Photo of Beneficial uses under the clean water act

    Beneficial uses under the clean water act


    Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

    The Clean Water Act’s (CWA) Section 301(m)(2) reads: “The effuuent limitations established under a permit issued under paragraph (1) shall be sufficient to implement the applicable State water quality standards, to assure the protection of public water supplies and protection and propagation of a balanced, indigenous population of shellfish, fish, fauna, wildlife, and other aquatic organisms, and to allow recreational activities in and on the water. In setting such limitations, the Administrator shall take into account any seasonal variations and the need for an adequate margin of safety, considering the lack of essential knowledge concerning the relationship between effuuent limitations and water quality and the lack of essential knowledge of the effects of discharges on beneficial uses of the receiving waters.
  3. Biota and opportunity costs

    Natural resource operators are directly affected by habitat preservation requirements for species listed under the ESA and state equivalents. One possible explanation is that environmental decision-makers do not have sufficient information, ecological training, or appropriate analytical tools so they fall back on the precautionary principle (hope for the best, prepare for the worst) and declare that all actual and potential habitat for the species be left untouched for population sustainability. This is both unnecessary and wasteful as there are robust statistical and spatio-temporal models that can inform technically sound and legally defensible decisions, even with limited data.
  4. Biotic abundance and limiting factors

    Sage-grouse, salmon, desert tortoise, and many other animals are listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) or are being considered for listing. Much data have been collected on population abundance, distribution, and habitat quantity and quality. Unfortunately, most biotic data are incorrectly analyzed because count data differ from continuous data and require different statistical models. Because ineffective policy decisions result from inappropriate models correct analytical results are critical for regulated industries, regulators, and other stakeholders.
  5. Complex environmental data

    From baseline conditions for environmental impact assessments to compliance with regulatory permit conditions regulated companies collect biological data and report analytical results to regulators and other interested parties. Historically, analyses used biotic diversity and integrity indices. These attempt to summarize highly complex natural ecosystems in a single number believed to make comparisons and decisions easier. While these indices are based on ecological theory they are very difficult, even impossible, to measure and quantitatively compare.
  6. Ecological flows

    Many common threads connect geographically separate regulatory and public concerns. Oregon has peak and ecological flows for water storage projects, Nevada has water quality draining from waste rock disposal areas (RDAs), West Virginia (and other Appalachian coal mining areas) has downstream water quality and aquatic biota from valley fill runoff. Related concerns involve fish and the Endangered Species Act (ESA): bull trout in Idaho; salmon in Oregon and Washington; Lahontan cutthroat trout in Nevada.
  7. ESA species

    The original form of this article was submitted on March 31, 1995 as the Direct Service Industries’ comments to draft regulations proposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS, now NOAA Fisheries). The two agencies wanted to define “distinct population segments” under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) so that they would have a consistent definition for their regulatory decisions. Unfortunately, administrative convenience and political accommodation replaced science in the definition.
  8. Fisheries enhancement

    Dredging sands and gravels from river beds and scalping annual sediment deposits from bars are too often considered environmentally harmful to aquatic life and water quality by environmental policy makers, regulators, and the public. One reason for this belief is that natural ecosystems are very complex and highly variable. Adding to this complexity and variability altered weather patterns (precipitation and the entire hydrologic cycle) contribute to changed behaviors by fish within each river system.
  9. Instream Flow Requirements

    The concept of minimal in-stream flows dates from at least the mid-1970s. It is an important issue to everyone who withdraws ground or surface waters, injects water underground, or adds water to streams and rivers, particularly in the drought-stricken western US. At the federal level, the US EPA funded a grant to define ecological and related flows and create methods to measure them and the US Geological Survey developed measurement methods.
  10. Metals and aquatic life

    Dissolved metals such as copper, cadmium, and zinc can be toxic to aquatic life, particularly fish. The current tool used to estimate site-specific water quality criteria for a metal is the biotic ligand model (BLM). The BLM intends to quantify how water chemistry affects speciation and biological availability of metals in aquatic ecosystems. This is important because bioavailability and bioreactivity of metals control their potential for acute or chronic harm. A BLM incorporates aquatic chemistry, fish physiology, and ecotoxicology but not ecology.

Providing essential environmental services since 1993.