Towards an ecosystem service-based method to quantify the filtration services of mussels under chemical exposure
As filter-feeders, freshwater mussels provide the ecosystem service (ES) of biofiltration. Chemical pollution may impinge on the provisioning of mussels' filtration services. However, few attempts have been made to estimate the impacts of chemical mixtures on mussels' filtration capacities in the field, nor to assess the economic benefits of mussel-provided filtration services for humans. The aim of the study was to derive and to apply a methodology for quantifying the economic benefits of mussel filtration services in relation to chemical mixture exposure. To this end, we first applied the bootstrapping approach to quantify the filtration capacity of dreissenid mussels when exposed to metal mixtures in the Rhine and Meuse Rivers in the Netherlands. Subsequently, we applied the value transfer method to quantify the economic benefits of mussel filtration services to surface water-dependent drinking water companies. The average mixture filtration inhibition (filtration rate reduction due to exposure to metal mixtures) to dreissenids was estimated to be <1% in the Rhine and Meuse Rivers based on the measured metal concentrations from 1999 to 2017. On average, dreissenids on groynes were estimated to filter the highest percentage of river discharge in the Nederrijn-Lek River (9.1%) and the lowest in the Waal River (0.1%). We estimated that dreissenid filtration services would save 110–12,000 euros/million m3 for drinking water production when abstracting raw water at the end of respective rivers. Economic benefits increased over time due to metal emission reduction. This study presents a novel methodology for quantifying the economic benefits of mussel filtration services associated with chemical pollution, which is understandable to policymakers. The derived approach could potentially serve as a blueprint for developing methods in examining the economic value of other filter-feeders exposed to other chemicals and environmental stressors. We explicitly discuss the uncertainties for further development and application of the method.