Applied Ecosystem Services, LLC

  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. Aquatic Life Water Quality Standard

    The EPA, and many state regulators, consider aquatic life to be the highest designated beneficial use of water. Closely related to this water quality standard is “fishable and swimmable”. The latter is easier to define and to assess attainment: if fish are present all water quality variables suit their needs; when there are no human parasites or known toxic chemicals water quality is swimmable. The aquatic life water quality standard is not as easy to define and measure.
  3. Aquatic toxins

    Inorganic metals and organic toxic chemicals in water, sediments, soils, or rocks concern everyone. Most people are seriously concerned with toxins that effect human and environmental health. A major characteristic of toxic geochemicals is that they tend to occur at very low concentrations; many times not being detected or quantified at all by the analytical chemical lab. These non-detected (or censored) results too often are mis-handled by ignoring them or substituting some arbitrary number in their stead.
  4. Biological water quality standards

    The basis for setting water quality standards is decades out of date, given our current understanding of environmental data and availability of recently developed statistical models. The use of a single maximum concentration limit (MCL) for individual chemical elements does not reflect natural ecosystem function nor provide accurate indications of whether regulated industrial activities adversely impact the specific designated beneficial uses of surface or ground waters at specific locations. Water is a complex mixture of compounds, not individual ions, and concentrations vary with temperature, pH, binding and release with inorganic and organic substrata, and other factors.
  5. Censored data

    Many projects or operation involve geochemistry: chemicals in water, sediments, soils, or rocks. Most people are not concerned with chemicals like magnesium sulfate or sodium chloride, but they are seriously concerned with toxins that effect human and environmental health. These toxins can be inorganic metals such as arsenic, cadmium, and zinc or organic compounds such as polychlorinated dioxins, furans, biphenyls, and pesticides. These toxins are most commonly present in very low concentrations, frequently not detectable.
  6. Ecological risk analysis

    Toxic metals and organic compounds are commonly present at very low concentrations in water, sediments, soils, and rocks. Concentrations cannot be quantified with 99% certainty; if those chemicals are present the instrument cannot distinguish them from zero. Concentrations below laboratory reporting limits are censored because their values are unknown. Censored values can be 70-80% of the available date, a meaningful amount of valuable information. Correct analysis of censored data is particularly important when performing an ecological risk analysis (ERA) as part of the CERCLA Superfund process.
  7. Photo of Effective Regulation of Water Quality

    Effective Water Quality Regulation


    Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

    Current regulation of water quality, based on the statutes they implement, fail to effectively describe the current state of water bodies. There are historical and political reasons for this condition but no excuse to continue as we have for the past almost 60 years. Our understanding of aquatic ecosystems and the development of appropriate statistical models for environmental data provide the means to more effectively regulate water quality to benefit natural ecosystems and human health.
  8. Environmental vs laboratory science

    R.A. Fisher, a British biologist and statistician created the statistical foundation for testing experimental hypotheses in the 1930s. Environmental data are observational measurements, not experimental measurements. Therefore, the analytical models applied to experimental data produce incorrect results when applied to environmental data. Download the PDF.
  9. Fitting analytical model to data

    To make informed regulatory decisions it is necessary to understand differences between ecological and environmental data. Analyses of environmental data historically use models developed by numerical ecologists for ecological data collected by academic and research agency scientists. These numeric and statistic models require well-structured data collected to fit assumptions and requirements of the models. This works for researchers who identify a question to be answered and work forward from that to determine when, where, and how much data need collecting to answer that question.
  10. Forecasting water quality

    Predicting concentrations of chemicals in surface waters is a major component of permitting decisions, from NEPA impact assessments and NPDES point source discharge to mine closure and Superfund liability bond releases. Decision delays are costly for operators, and regulators are too often sued by those claiming that decisions were based on inadequate data. Usual approaches to forecasting chemical concentrations are to build complex numeric ecosystem models or predict concentrations of single chemicals rather than the entire set of chemicals of interest.

Providing essential environmental services since 1993.