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O. J. Gonzalez (1996)

Formulating an ecosystem approach to environmental protection

Environmental Management 20:597--506.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has embraced a new strategy of environmental protection that is place-driven rather than program-driven. This new approach focuses on the protection of entire ecosystems. To develop an effective strategy of ecosystem protection, however, EPA will need to: (1) determine how to define and delineate ecosystems and (2) categorize threats to individual ecosystems and priority rank ecosystems at risk. Current definitions of ecosystem in use at EPA are inadequate for meaningful use in a management or regulatory context. A landscape-based definition that describes an ecosystem as a volumetric unit delineated by climatic and landscape features is suggested. Following this definition, ecosystems are organized hierarchically, from megaecosystems, which exist on a continental scale (e.g., Great Lakes), to small local ecosystems. Threats to ecosystems can generally be categorized as: (1) ecosystem degradation (occurs mainly through pollution) (2) ecosystem alteration (physical changes such as water diversion), and (3) ecosystem removal (e.g., conversion of wetlands or forest to urban or agricultural lands). Level of threat (i.e., how imminent), and distance from desired future condition are also important in evaluating threats to ecosystems. Category of threat, level of threat, and ldquodistancerdquo from desired future condition can be combined into a three-dimensional ranking system for ecosystems at risk. The purpose of the proposed ranking system is to suggest a preliminary framework for agencies such as EPA to prioritize responses to ecosystems at risk.
by ploneadmin last modified 16-10-2006 18:58

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