, Volume 263, Issue 1, pp 1-44

A proposed framework for developing indicators of ecosystem health

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Considerations involved in developing a suite of indicators to monitor regional environmental health, similar in conception to management use of ‘leading economic indicators’, are described. Linkages between human activities and well being and the state of the environment are considered essential to the evaluation of general environmental health. Biogeochemical and socioeconomic indicators are mutually affected by environmental degradation and examples of both categories of indicators are described. Desirable properties in indicators of environmental health vary with their specific management use. Different indicators are called for when collecting data to assess the adequacy of the environment, monitor trends over time, provide early warning of environmental degradation, or diagnose the cause of an existing problem. Tradeoffs between desirable characteristics, costs, and quality of information are inevitable when choosing indicators for management use. Decisions about what information to collect for which purpose can be made more rationally when available indicators are characterized and matched to management goals.