A Guidebook for Integrated Ecological Assessments

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Milne, Bruce T.. Stuever, Mary C. Crawford, Manuel C.

Bibliographic Information

Ecosystem management requires a planning and decision-making process that places land use in its appropriate ecological context. Because ecological. Mark E. Jensen. Patrick S. Bourgeron. Editors. A Guidebook for. Integrated. Ecological Assessments. With Figures. Springer.

Molles, Carleton S. White, and Esteban Muldavin.. Holland, G. Robertson, J.

Greenberg, P. Groffman, R. Boone, J. Robertson, D. Coleman, C. Bledsoe, P. Oxford University Press, Inc. Li, B. Shanley, James B. Kendall, J. Elsevier Science. Peters, M. Kertesz, E. Kovacs-Lang, G. Kroel-Dulay, S. Newberry, Teresa L.. Whole tree response.

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The REF can then be used to assess and guide transpor- tation decision making at all stages of transportation planning and development. The profiles ensured that the same information was available to all parties involved in the process and that decisions were made on the basis of the best available science. Such a plan and map outline goals shared by multiple agencies and provide incentives for state DOTs to avoid and minimize impacts and to invest in conservation. Furthermore, the framework assessment process produces more accurate and comprehensive assessments of the impacts of transportation scenarios and can identify corridors with fewer direct and cumulative impacts. Northern Forest Lands Case Study. Ecosystem Structure and Function Modeling.

Kelley, S. Loftin" Rio Grande ecosystems: linking land, water, and people. Toward a sustainable future for the Middle Rio GrandeBasin.

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Lin, Z. Please report errors in award information by writing to: awardsearch nsf. Search Awards. Recent Awards. Presidential and Honorary Awards. About Awards. How to Manage Your Award. This score indicates that, in general, the natural resource condition within watersheds at these parks is healthy or ecologically unimpaired; however, we had only partial data for many of our indicators. Our model is iterative and new data may be incorporated as they become available. These natural parks are located within a rapidly urbanizing landscape—we recommend that natural resource managers remain vigilant to surrounding land uses that may adversely affect natural resources within the parks.

An ecological assessment is a science-based process and tool for determining the condition of an ecosystem relative to an identified condition or state Jensen and Bourgeron ; Suter ; Levin et al. These assessments have been adopted by many natural resource managers at both governmental and non-governmental organizations Jensen and Bourgeron ; Suter These types of assessments do not primarily address causation of condition but summarize the status and trends of selected indicators Suter The status and trend of the indicators are often compared against a reference condition i.

Important pages

For each indicator, ecological thresholds e. Ecological thresholds have been used to show how pollution, land use change, or hydrological variability affects aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems and their components Toms and Lesperance ; Rosenberg et al. However, there are limited applications of thresholds across geographic regions and ecosystem type Groffman et al. Furthermore, water quality thresholds for temperature, pH, and dissolved oxygen among others have been recommended for streams in many geographic regions and landscape uses see Brabec et al.

Landscape or habitat thresholds also have been suggested for forested ecosystems in the mid-Atlantic. However, assigning single value thresholds to landscape metrics to denote ecological integrity is a difficult task as species respond differently to habitat fragmentation across scales Fahrig ; Tierney et al. Kennedy et al.

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Similar variability in reported thresholds is evident for minimum habitat patch area, forest edge influence, and riparian buffer widths Kennedy et al. As a result, in spite of the wealth of landscape pattern metric indicators generated and evaluated over the past 20 years McGarigal et al.

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Similar to defining ecological thresholds, determining reference condition has been attempted in a variety of ways. For example, natural areas including National Parks have been used to set reference conditions due to the presumably low human impacts in these areas Lisle et al. Furthermore, if historic conditions are known, these are often set as the reference condition for a particular area Muxika et al.

However, for many ecosystems, reference condition s are simply not known. The goal of these ecological condition assessments is to use a subset of indicators and thresholds to evaluate ecological condition of selected park units to frame management issues and alternatives and to report these findings to the public and government stakeholders. One limiting aspect of this assessment program is only existing data may be used—no data are collected as part of the NRCA efforts.

In addition, specific management issues or goals are not identified for these assessments a priori. We approached our assessment in a step-wise fashion, loosely following the objectives outlined in Levin et al. These objectives included:. Using selected ecological indicators and thresholds both individually and in an integrated fashion to assess ecosystem condition. Following these objectives, we developed and applied an indicators-based decision support system DSS model that incorporated geographic information systems GIS , fuzzy logic, expert judgment, best available data, and ecological thresholds to assess the ecological components of watersheds at UPDE and DEWA in This approach also involves integrating data from a variety of sources that may differ in scale and form.

However, a DSS is not an automated decision maker. Management decisions are left to natural resource expertise. Although DSS models have been developed for forested landscapes Varma et al. Our approach incorporates selected ecological thresholds and components that were available to us. However, we are not advocating our particular model, indicators, or thresholds. Rather, we demonstrate that an ecological assessment of place can be facilitated, and long-term management enhanced, through the codification and delivery of extant knowledge of broad ecological systems to resource managers and other stakeholders.

The natural features of note within this park unit are related to the river itself and include outstanding game fish habitat, diverse native aquatic insect communities, and intact riparian plant communities. Fall and spring temperatures are highly variable.

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Precipitation is evenly distributed throughout the year with annual amounts ranging between Due to the linear nature of these park units, threats to their natural resources arise primarily from outside the park and are associated with increased residential and commercial development. When conducting an ecological assessment, the scale of assessment must be consistent with the ability to recognize and explain drivers and threats to the ecosystem Jensen and Bourgeron ; Levin et al. We, therefore, used watersheds as the basis of conducting our ecological assessment at the two parks.

These watersheds included the major and minor tributaries present within, or flowing into, each park in addition to small direct surface runoff areas flowing into the main stem of the Delaware River. Watersheds were the logical scale at which to direct model development because they naturally incorporate aquatic and terrestrial indicators, are ecologically meaningful, and lend themselves well to comparisons with other natural resource agency programs e.

Developing the Ecological Assessment

In addition, many datasets were already being collected at the watershed level within each park. By using the topographically defined watershed approach, our dataset contained a mix of catchment areas and stream orders watershed areas ranged from 1. Accordingly, we focused on landscape metrics that are not sensitive to spatial extent. The finer scale data sources are generally restricted to within park boundaries rather than inclusive of the entire watershed.

Therefore, moderate resolution satellite-based land cover maps e. To conduct our assessment, we used a variety of ecological datasets that were available for park management. The project specifications limited us from collecting new data to conduct the assessment. To identify existing sources of scientific data and information useful for evaluating the current condition and trends of natural resources, all relevant reports and publications were identified by using NatureBIB a National Park Service reports database , by cooperation with resource managers at park units, and by directly contacting researchers and organizations e.

In addition, we relied on recently completed conceptual model reports for terrestrial ecosystems, major rivers, and tributaries that were available from the NPS Eastern Rivers and Mountains Network environmental monitoring program e.

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Sources of data included, but were not limited to DRBC special waters program, water quality and quantity monitoring programs, published groundwater, natural resource, and recreational studies e. As previously stated, there are a variety of ways to determine reference condition; however, we relied primarily on past scientific research and expert opinion in the same manner that we used for identifying sources of data.

These workshops permitted resource managers to affirm the use of selected indicators and datasets. In many ecological studies, a well-defined and documented reference condition is not available in the scientific literature e. However, numerous landscape and biological changes e. In general, the reference and desired condition of the parks is a mixed deciduous and eastern hemlock Tsuga canadensis forest with cold freestone headwater streams 1st and 2nd order originating in the park, and larger tributaries flowing through the parks NPS In addition, a major feature of both parks is the Delaware River, which is the largest continuously flowing undammed river in the eastern United States NPS Riitters et al.