As a result of the actions that are described as pressures, environmental conditions often are changed (e.g., eutro-phication due to intensive agriculture, air pollution caused by burning of fossil fuels). Because of sometimes delayed reactions in natural systems, conditions and changes in environmental state are often related to pressures that occurred in the past (e.g., acidification caused by former SO2 emissions). Other changes occur rather abruptly and initiate significant alterations in the environment (e.g., floods, fires).
Environmental state indicators should be reactive to changes in the pattern of pressures. Furthermore, they have to be suitable for the elaboration of appropriate actions (like mitigation of emissions, restoration of habitats). The connection of state indicators to existing or planned environmental monitoring systems increases their applicability.
To assess the state of the environment in a holistic manner, relevant processes (energy, matter, and water cycling) and components (diversity of species, habitats) have to be taken into account and integrated in an ecosystem-based approach. Difficulties often arise in assessments on varying spatial or temporal scales or in the run of integration of different natural components (air, water, and soil). The application of different modeling and spatial analysis tools (e.g., GIS) are suitable approaches to handle these problems.
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