Conclusions

Chapters 2-8 have shown several ecosystem properties that need indicators to be measured. This chapter has presented the up-to-date level of knowledge about these indicators. All these indicators are used to compare characteristics and performance of different ecosystems, or of an ecosystem in time, more than to give absolute measures. These indicators cover a wide range of important properties of ecosystems, more than those shown in this chapter, for the evaluation of ecosystem health. Here just few examples have been picked among the many to let the reader have at least an idea of what can be done with these indicators, but nowadays a whole literature of papers and books can provide further examples and types of applications. The use of these indicators spans from agricultural to industrial systems, and from ecosystem management to ecological economics.

Especially for management purposes, it is necessary to use these indicators with others, more focused on particular aspects than on the global ecosystem. Nonetheless, the approaches used in this chapter are fundamental to describe ecosystems as "systems" and not just as the sum of singular components and therefore should always be used. They provide information that is sometimes complementary and sometimes overlaps: in this direction more research is needed to clarify the level of overlapping and to fully explore the essence of the indicandum provided by every indicator, but their relevance is undoubted.

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