1 Tahrcountry Musings: Ecological indicators to forecast environmental disasters- A new study

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Ecological indicators to forecast environmental disasters- A new study

All of us are familiar with leading indicators used by economists to asses economy. Geologists use seismic indicators to try to predict earthquakes. Taking a cue from this scientists have taken a page from the social science handbook and are trying to use it as leading indicators of the environment to forecast potential collapse of ecosystems.

The interesting study has been published on January 5th in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In the new study, Carpenter, Reinette Biggs of Stockholm University and William A. Brock, an economist at UW-Madison, used northern Wisconsin's sport fishery as a laboratory to see if leading indicators of ecological collapse can be detected in advance to avert disaster. The results were positive.

The authors says, “Ecosystems worldwide, lakes, ocean fisheries, coral reefs, forests, wetlands and rangelands, are under constant and escalating pressure from humans and many are on the brink of collapse and it is possible to sense impending ecosystem regime shifts by carefully monitoring the changing variables”.

The authors warn” "We really need to be monitoring and analyzing the data from these ecosystems as a way to keep them healthy. Otherwise, by the time the problem surfaces it is too late."

This is a very good study worth a read. With refinements the study can come in handy as a very useful tool for environmentalists.

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