Developing and Communicating a Taxonomy of Ecological Indicators: A Case Study from the Mid-Atlantic
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- Wardrop, D.H., Hershner, C., Havens, K. et al. EcoHealth (2007) 4: 179. doi:10.1007/s10393-007-0108-2
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To ensure indicators of ecosystem health are integrated into environmental decision-making, it is imperative to provide a comprehensive framework for indicator selection and use. The same framework can also be used to evaluate the utility of any given indicator. The Atlantic Slope Consortium (ASC) has developed such a framework, based upon three primary elements: 1) The specific questions to be answered (the type of indicator), recognizing the following types of questions/indicators: Condition assessment: snapshot of the current state of the system; Stressor diagnosis: identification of causative factors of condition; Communication to the public: encouraging comprehension of condition in its most elementary or integrated form; Futures assessment: estimating the probable trajectory of condition, or assessing the vulnerability of any system to a stochastic event; Evaluation: a subset of condition indicators that evaluate the effectiveness of management actions. 2) The spatial and/or temporal scale of the issue being addressed (the spatial/temporal scale over which the indicator is valid). 3) The context of the question, using categories of surrounding land use as surrogates for social choices. A Fish Community Index (FCI) developed for the ASC will provide an example of utilizing the framework to select an indicator, as well as using the framework to judge the utility of the indicator.