Report - Cambridge University Press

The State of the Nation's Ecosystems: Measuring the Lands, Waters and Living Resources of the United States

| September 2002

In modern Western culture, ecosystem awareness has evolved from a somewhat obscure scientific concept a few decades ago, to its current state in the vernacular of a large proportion of the population. Today it is increasingly hard to find someone who does not have an idea of what an ecosystem is, however fragmentary or inaccurate the understanding may be. Yet even with increased awareness it is impossible to state with any certainty and credibility the current overall status of our most critical ecosystems.

Some of the reason for this can be attributed to the origins of ecology in the reductionist sciences. Ecosystem status indicators are integrative measures. This way of looking at data seems unnatural or even erroneous to many investigators. Yet the National Academy of Sciences and others asserted the need for indicators at various scales several years ago. Federal agencies, especially the Environmental Protection Agency, have been actively funding work to develop ecosystem indicators that will be useful for policy development. The federal agencies encourage use of existing data, but also facilitate collecting new data as needed to develop indicators that would be otherwise unavailable.

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For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics and the Environment (William C. Clark, Study Chair). “The State of the Nation's Ecosystems: Measuring the Lands, Waters and Living Resources of the United States.” Cambridge University Press, September 2002.