A workshop was held in Wageningen, The Netherlands, in September 2017 to collate data and literature on three aquatic ecosystem types (agricultural drainage ditches, urban floodplains, and urban estuaries), and develop a general framework for the assessment of multiple stressors on the structure and functioning of these systems. An assessment framework considering multiple stressors is crucial for our understanding of ecosystem responses within a multiply stressed environment, and to inform appropriate environmental management strategies. The framework consists of two components: (i) problem identification and (ii) impact assessment. Both assessments together proceed through the following steps: 1) ecosystem selection; 2) identification of stressors and quantification of their intensity; 3) identification of receptors or sensitive groups for each stressor; 4) identification of stressor-response relationships and their potential interactions; 5) construction of an ecological model that includes relevant functional groups and endpoints; 6) prediction of impacts of multiple stressors, 7) confirmation of these predictions with experimental and monitoring data, and 8) potential adjustment of the ecological model. Steps 7 and 8 allow the assessment to be adaptive and can be repeated until a satisfactory match between model predictions and experimental and monitoring data has been obtained. This paper is the preface of the MAEGA (Making Aquatic Ecosystems Great Again) special section that includes three associated papers which are also published in this volume, which present applications of the framework for each of the three aquatic systems.
- multiple stressors
- aquatic ecosystems
- ecological models
- ecological risk assessment framework