Categories of Ecosystem Health Indicators

As ecosystems are extremely complex, any single indicator cannot be completely representative with reference to all possible demands, features, and conditions. Nevertheless, there is a wide spectrum of indicators that can be used for the assessment of ecosystem health. They can be classified into different categories that include varying levels of integration, ranging from rather reductionistic to holistic indicators, integrating a broad range of environmental information:

• indicators based on the abundance of selected species;

• indicators based on the concentration of selected elements;

• indicators based on ratios between different classes of organisms or elements;

• indicators based on ecological strategies or processes;

• indicators based on ecosystem composition and structure; and

• systems theoretical holistic indicators.

The identification of appropriate indicator-indicandum (the phenomenon that has to be assessed) relations has to be carried out thoroughly, especially while dealing with holistic and highly aggregated indicators.

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