Applied Methods of Ecosystem Health Assessment

The concept of ecosystem health has been criticized for being too fuzzy and not concrete enough for practical application. Nevertheless, it found entry in different management strategies and definitions of political targets. For example, in principle 7 of the Rio declaration of 1992, it has been claimed that ''States shall cooperate in a spirit of global partnership to conserve, protect and restore the health and integrity of the Earth's ecosystem.'' More recently, the consideration of ecosystem health was integrated into the ecosystem approach of the convention on biological diversity (CBD) and in connection to the precautionary principle which is part of the environmental and nature conservation strategies in different countries. Furthermore, the ecosystem health concept was implemented in the strategies of the OSPAR and the HELCOM commissions for the protection of marine environments or in the European Union Water Framework Directive. The development of appropriate monitoring and indicator systems and methods to assess ecosystem health in practice are main targets of these initiatives.

Three examples for methods for possible ways of ecosystem health assessment applications are given in the following. The first one, the ecosystem health index method (EHIM) is based on a combination of different subindicators which are synthesized into index values using individual weighting factors. Whereas in the ecological model method (EMM), modeling procedures are used to quantify indicator values, the direct measurement method (DMM) is based on values that are measured directly or calculated indirectly for the assessment of ecosystem health.

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