Ecological indicators can be used to assess the condition of the environment, to provide an early warning signal of changes in the environment, or to diagnose the cause of an environmental problem. Ideally the suite of indicators should represent key information about structure, function, and composition of the ecological system. Three concerns hamper the use of ecological indicators as a resource management tool. (1) Monitoring programs often depend on a small number of indicators and fail to consider the full complexity of the ecological system. (2) Choice of ecological indicators is confounded in management programs that have vague long-term goals and objectives. (3) Management and monitoring programs often lack scientific rigor because of their failure to use a defined protocol for identifying ecological indicators. Thus, ecological indicators need to capture the complexities of the ecosystem yet remain simple enough to be easily and routinely monitored. Ecological indicators should meet the following criteria: be easily measured, be sensitive to stresses on the system, respond to stress in a predictable manner, be anticipatory, predict changes that can be averted by management actions, be integrative, have a known response to disturbances, anthropogenic stresses, and changes over time, and have low variability in response. The challenge is to derive a manageable set of indicators that together meet these criteria.
Ecological Indicators – Elsevier
Published: Aug 1, 2001
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