Assessing Ecological Risk from Radiation Requires an Ecosystem Approach

  • François BréchignacEmail author


In order to be fully adequate, efficient, pertinent and demonstrative with respect to ecological risk, a system for environment protection against radiation requires an ecosystem approach. Starting from an historical analysis of the cultural context within which environment protection has evolved in the radiation protection community, and taking stock of the IAEA member states’ reluctance to implement it in international regulation, we revisit the strategic justification expressed at the origin and observe that the scoping was weak due to aiming at “filling a conceptual gap” and a “demonstration goal” rather than simply assessing/preventing ecological detriment per se. The system framework best currently achieved is biocentric and dominated by high levels of reductionism because recent compilations of literature upon which the operational methodology is constructed are largely restricted to biological effects of radiation observed at organism level. As such, this first methodology misses to address also ecological risk, the actual goal of environment protection that all now acknowledge. It is stressed that addressing ecological risk cannot be extrapolated or simply derived from this first methodology, and requires designing an ecosystem approach in addition. Several results and findings recently published corroborate this view towards a more ecocentric vision. The ecosystem approach provides a conceptual vision which integrates humans within the environment. It therefore brings a suitable basis to build on for addressing ecological risk, assessing how, and to which extent, the human and environment radiation protection systems could be integrated together, and relating ecological detriment to potential loss of ecosystem services.


Ecological risk assessment Ecosystem approach Radiation effects Environmental protection Low doses Radioecology Non-human biota Species interactions Ecocentric vision 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Radioprotection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN) and International Union of Radioecology (IUR), BP 1, Center of CadaracheCedexFrance

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