Handbook of Ecological Indicators for Assessment of Ecosystem Health

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  • Provides the first comprehensive account of ecological indicators for assessing the health of a wide variety of ecosystems
  • Allows environmental professionals to select which indicators to use in a given situation
  • Compares indicators for given applications with advantages and disadvantages
  • Offers first-hand accounts and case studies from practitioners in the field
  • Lends practical guidance in an area of growing importance for environmental management


The field of ecosystem health explores the interactions between natural systems, human health, and social organization. As decision makers require a sound, modular approach to environmental management and sustainable development, ecosystem health assessment indicators are increasingly used across any number of applications. The Handbook of Ecological Indicators for Assessment of Ecosystem Health provides a comprehensive account and guidebook to ecological indicators for evaluating the health of a wide variety of ecosystems.

The book presents a conceptual framework for selecting, evaluating, and validating ecological indicators of ecosystem health, such as thermodynamics, resilience estimates, exergy, and emergy indicators. This framework is applied in a series of chapters on major ecosystem types, including coastal areas, forests, wetlands, fisheries, and agricultural land. The authors take into account biodiversity, energy needs, ecological economics, and natural capital in their measurement of ecological health. Using material synthesized from a variety of books, journals, and private research, the book presents first-hand accounts of the indicators, used in several different types of ecosystems. Case studies highlight the advantages and disadvantages of each method as well.

The Handbook of Ecological Indicators for Assessment of Ecosystem Health explains what is needed to apply the methods and indicators, including theoretical background and modeling techniques, to evaluate the state of a given ecosystem. It will be useful for a wide range of environmental managers, natural resource managers, land use planners, and policy makers in government and non-governmental organizations worldwide.

Table of Contents

Introduction, S.E. Jørgensen

Application of Indicators for the Assessment of Ecosystem Health, S.E. Jørgensen and F.-L. Xu

Application of Ecological Indicators to Assess Environmental Quality in Coastal Zones and Transitional Waters: Two Case Studies, J.C. Marques, F. Salas, J.M. Patrício, and M.A. Pardal

Development and Application of Ecosystem Health Indicators in the North American Great Lakes Basin, H. Shear, P. Bertram, C. Forst, and P. Horvatin

Application of Ecological and Thermodynamic Indicators for the Assessment of Ecosystem Health of Lakes, F.-L. Xu

Ecosystem Health Assessment and Bioeconomic Analysis in Coastal Lagoons, J.M. Zaldívar, M. Austoni, M. Plus, G.A. De Leo, G. Giordani, and P. Viaroli

Application of Ecological and Thermodynamic Indicators for the Assessment of Ecosystem Health of Coastal Areas, S.E. Jørgensen

Application of Ecological Indicators for Assessing Health of Marine Ecosystems, V. Christensen and P. Cury

Using Ecological Indicators in a Whole-Ecosystem Wetland Experiment, W.J. Mitsch, N. Wang, L. Zhang, R. Deal, X. Wu, and A. Zuwerink

The Joint Use of Exergy and Emergy as Indicators of Ecosystems Performances, S. Bastianoni, N. Marchettini, F.M. Pulselli, and M. Rosini

Application of Thermodynamic Indices to Agro-Ecosystems, Y.M. Svirezhev

Ecosystem Indicators for the Integrated Management of Landscape Health and Integrity, F. Müller

Multi-Scale Resilience Estimates For Health Assessment of Real Habitats in a Landscape, G. Zurlini, N. Zaccarelli, and I. Petrosillo

Emergy, Transformity, and Ecosystem Health, M.T. Brown and S. Ulgiati

Mass Accounting and Mass-Based Indicators, S. Bargigli, M. Raugei, and S. Ulgiati

The Health of Ecosystems: the Ythan Estuary Case Study, D. Raffaelli, P. White, A. Renwick, J. Smart, and C. Perrings

Assessing Marine Ecosystem Health - Concepts and Indicators, with Reference to the Bay of Fundy and Gulf of Maine, Northwest Atlantic, P.G. Wells