Ecological Exposure Research
Sustainability means meeting society's needs in a way that ensures the next generation's ability to meet their needs. With that goal in mind, EPA's research is designed to solve present-day environmental problems, and also to anticipate issues on the horizon. Sustainability-guided research must be able to address problems on the large scale and the relatively small scale. EPA's sustainability research projects have been developed to help better manage ecosystems so that society can continue to enjoy their benefits for many generations to come.
Research in Action
Detecting and Monitoring Aquatic Invasive Species
EPA ecological exposure scientists are developing new DNA-based tools for the early detection and monitoring of aquatic invasive species. These tools will help prevent future invasions and the spread of existing exotic species. The spread of invasive species in our nation’s waters has costly economic and ecological impacts. The exchange of ballast water from the hulls of ships is one of the ways that these invasive species are introduced.
Future Midwestern Landscapes
EPA ecologists are studying the ways that increasing demand for corn-based biofuels is changing ecosystems in the U.S. Midwest. As more or less land in an area is devoted to agriculture, or changed from one type of farming to another, the surrounding ecosystems may change, and the benefits people derive from them could be reduced or enhanced. EPA's scientists are building computer models to help understand the tradeoffs between biofuel production and ecosystem services.
Ecological exposure researchers with EPA are developing ways to identify, assess, and maintain headwater streams where stream networks begin. The health of headwater streams is important to the quality of water downstream. EPA’s ecological exposure scientists have developed tools for assessing the quality and permanence of headwater streams to provide guidance for regional, tribal and state agencies in protecting these precious resources.
Wetlands - Understanding the Provisioning of Ecosystem Services
EPA is conducting research that will help scientists identify and understand the services provided by wetlands. These complex ecosystems not only are homes for countless animal and plant species, they also can help keep rivers and streams free of contamination by trapping agricultural runoff from nearby fields. This information will help EPA scientists develop new, sustainable ways to maintain the water quality of our rivers.
Ecosystems Goods and Services Production Function Library
Ecologists in EPA are using a new way to look at ecosystems to create a tool that will help illustrate the benefits we derive from ecosystems and how human activity can affect those benefits. Many of the goods and services on which our health and economic well-being depend — clean air and clean water, for example — are produced, in whole or in part, by the ecosystems around us. EPA's researchers are collecting existing information on ecosystem functions into the Ecosystems Production Function Library, or EPF-L. The library will allow researchers from across the country to examine the goods an ecosystem produces, the level of demand for those goods, and how human activities could reduce or increase an ecosystem's production of that good. This in turn will help scientists develop conservation tools specifically tailored to maximize the goods and services produced by a particular ecosystem.