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The State of the Nation's Ecosystems - An Experiment in Cross-System Integration

Robin O'Malley

Senior Fellow and Program Director, The H. John Heinz III Center for Science,
Economics and the Environment, 1001 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Suite 735 South
Washington, DC 20004 202-737-6307 (ph) 202-737-6410 (fax) omalley@heinzctr.org

The State of the Nation's Ecosystems, published in 2002, includes a set indicators for each of six principal ecosystem types in the United States: coasts and oceans, fresh waters, farmlands, forests, grasslands and shrublands, and urban and suburban areas, plus a set of "core national indicators" that provide an overview of overall national ecosystem conditions. Each set of indicators addresses a consistent suite of ten topics, which can be categorized generally into four key themes: system dimensions, chemical and physical properties, biological components, and human uses.

This basic framework provides an initial stage of cross-system integration - indicators for each ecosystem describe a consistent set of characteristics. However, the specific metrics differ greatly between ecosystems and some characteristics were not easily reported for some ecosystems. However, the State of the Nation's Ecosystems is an ongoing effort, designed for adaptive, continuous improvement. Therefore, in anticipation of completion of a second edition in 2007 (and each five years thereafter), work is underway to significantly increase the consistency among indicators that describe similar characteristics across multiple ecosystems. This work is focusing on indicators of landscape pattern (for both terrestrial and aquatic systems) and for non-native species.

Keywords: indicators, integration, metrics, cross-system, cross-media, landscape pattern, non-native, coasts, oceans, fresh waters, farmlands, forests, grasslands, shrublands, urban, suburban

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