Scientific Opinion on the development of specific protection goal options for environmental risk assessment of pesticides, in particular in relation to the revision of the Guidance Documents on Aquatic and Terrestrial Ecotoxicology (SANCO/3268/2001 and SANCO/10329/2002)
General protection goals are stated in European legislation but specific protection goals (SPGs) are not precisely defined. These are however crucial for designing appropriate risk assessment schemes. Here a process for defining SPG options is presented, which uses the ecosystem services approach as an overarching concept and could be used in consultation processes with risk managers and stakeholders. SPGs are defined in 6 dimensions: biological entity, attribute, magnitude of effect, temporal and geographical scale of the effect, and the degree of certainty that the specified level of effect will not be exceeded. SPG options are presented for 7 key drivers (microbes, algae, non target plants (aquatic and terrestrial), aquatic invertebrates, terrestrial non target arthropods including honeybees, terrestrial non-arthropod invertebrates, and vertebrates), covering all ecosystem services which could potentially be affected by the use of pesticides. To ensure ecosystem services, taxa representative for the key drivers identified need to be protected at the population level or higher. However, for aesthetic reasons (cultural ecosystem services) it may be decided to protect vertebrates at the individual level. To protect biodiversity, impacts at least need to be assessed at the scale of the watershed/landscape. The Panel also emphasizes the importance of a tiered approach for risk assessment, the essential linking of exposure and effect assessments in terms of spatial and temporal scales, and the relevance of ecological scenarios for appropriate pesticide risk assessments. It intends to use the presented concepts as input for the dialogue between risk managers and risk assessors during the next steps of the revision of the Ecotoxicology Guidance Documents.