Introduction

Orientors, being holistic ecological indicators, can give further information on the state of an ecosystem than can simply reductionistic indicators. Information coming from systematic or analytical approaches should never be neglected but holistic indicators allow us to understand if the system under study is globally following a path that takes the system to a "better" or to a "worse" state. And, we can also compare macroscopic state of different systems, which is impossible to do with isolated reductionistic information. So, advantages of holistic indicators are: additional aggregate information without losing information; ability to compare; ability to compare states of the same system at different times; and possibility of understanding what new data types are needed for this approach.

With indicator concepts like ecosystem health, ecosystem integrity can find operational values, using information coming from approaches like network analysis, eco-exergy, ascendency, emergy evaluation, and the other related indicators. Here, we present several examples in which the systems perspective in ecology has been applied. The types and locations of systems in which they have been applied are very diverse: terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems in Europe, North and South America, and Asia, as are the goals of the research and management questions involved. Regardless of the setting or objective, at its core, holistic indicators always give a broader understanding of the amalgamation of the ecosystem parts into a context of the whole.

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