Cover image for Ecological indicators for the nation
Ecological indicators for the nation
National Research Council (U.S.). Committee to Evaluate Indicators for Monitoring Aquatic and Terrestrial Environments.
Publication Information:
Washington, D.C. : National Academy Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
xvi, 180 pages : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
QH541.15.I5 E36 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Non circulating

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Environmental indicators, such as global temperatures and pollutant concentrations, attract scientists' attention and often make the headlines. Equally important to policymaking are indicators of the ecological processes and conditions that yield food, fiber, building materials and ecological "services" such as water purification and recreation.

This book identifies ecological indicators that can support U.S. policymaking and also be adapted to decisions at the regional and local levels. The committee describes indicators of land cover and productivity, species diversity, and other key ecological processes--explaining why each indicator is useful, what models support the indicator, what the measured values will mean, how the relevant data are gathered, how data collection might be improved, and what effects emerging technologies are likely to have on the measurements.

The committee reviews how it arrived at its recommendations and explores how the indicators can contribute to policymaking. Also included are interesting details on paleoecology, satellite imagery, species diversity, and other aspects of ecological assessment.

Federal, state, and local decisionmakers, as well as environmental scientists and practitioners, will be especially interested in this new book.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

In order to track the condition of US ecosystems, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is updating the way it monitors the environment. EPA asked the National Research Council to conduct a "scientific evaluation of indicators to monitor ecological changes from either natural or anthropogenic causes." Much in the way that the US government tracks the economy with economic indicators, EPA can track changes in the ecological health of the US by following a handful of important ecological measures. This well-written, well-documented, and detailed report was written by nearly 20 biologists focusing on 13 ecological measures (e.g., species diversity, land cover, net primary production, nutrient runoff) that were selected for long-term national tracking and reporting. The authors provide the justification and scientific underpinnings for each indicator, discuss the framework used for indicator selection, thoroughly describe each indicator, and finally, discuss regional and local indicators with examples from a forest ecosystem. Since this is a new approach to tracking ecosystem health, the authors make recommendations on how best to implement the monitoring program. All levels. D. Goldblum; University of Wisconsin--Whitewater

Table of Contents

Executive Summaryp. 1
Scales and Applicability of Indicatorsp. 2
Criteria for Evaluating Indicatorsp. 3
The Committee's Conceptual Model for Choosing Indicatorsp. 6
Policy Perspectivesp. 7
The Recommended Indicatorsp. 7
Timing and Cost of Implementing the Committee's Recommendationsp. 13
Local and Regional Indicatorsp. 14
Care and Handling of Environmental Datap. 17
Researchp. 17
1 Introductionp. 18
Why Are Ecological Indicators Needed?p. 18
This Studyp. 21
Key Ecological Processes and Products That People Valuep. 22
Establishing Baselines to Evaluate Trendsp. 23
Evaluating Indicatorsp. 25
Realistic Expectations about the Value of Indicatorsp. 26
2 The Empirical and Conceptual Foundations of Indicatorsp. 27
Scientific Underpinnings of Indicatorsp. 29
Using Multiple Approachesp. 31
Historical and Paleoecological Data As Aids to Indicator Developmentp. 31
Sources of Information about Current Ecological Processesp. 34
Models to Assess Ecosystem Functioningp. 43
The Committee's Conceptual Model for Choosing Indicatorsp. 48
3 A Framework for Indicator Selectionp. 51
Criteria for Evaluating Indicatorsp. 52
Information Handling and Calibrationp. 58
Data Quality Control, Archiving, and Assignment of Responsibilitiesp. 59
Use of the Committee Frameworkp. 62
4 Indicators for National Ecological Assessmentsp. 64
The Extent and Status of the Nation's Ecosystemsp. 67
Indicators of Ecological Capital: A. Biotic Raw Materialsp. 75
Indicators of Ecological Capital: B. Abiotic Raw Materialsp. 83
Indicators of the Performance of the Nation's Ecosystemsp. 90
Indicators of Nutrient-Use Efficiency and Nutrient Balances in Agroecosystemsp. 104
Research Needsp. 113
5 Local and Regional Indicatorsp. 116
Introductionp. 116
Productivity Indicatorsp. 117
Forests as an Examplep. 117
Indicators of Species Diversityp. 123
6 Referencesp. 131
A Variability, Complexity, and the Design of Sampling Proceduresp. 151
B Markov Matrices of Landscape Changep. 159
C Biographical Sketches of Committee Members and Staffp. 165
Indexp. 171