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Essays of a peripheral mind: Picking up rocks

Havstad, K. M.
Rangelands 2009 v.31 no.2 pp. 36
economic indicators, ecosystems, environmental assessment, environmental factors, environmental health, environmental indicators, indicator species, land use, national surveys, rangelands
In 2008 the Heinz Center released its report “The State of the Nation’s Ecosystems, 2008.” The current report provides sets of assessments on the status of the nation’s rangelands an area of approximately 1 billion acres. Unfortunately, on numerous occasions the report contains the phase “Data Gap-data are not available for national reporting of an indicator.” The Heinz Center attempts to employ 14 indicators to provide a national assessment of rangelands within one of the four categories of 1) extent and pattern of ecosystem area and land use, 2) chemical and physical characteristics, 3) biological components, and 4) goods and services Indicators are defined as specific, well-defined, and measureable variables that reflect key characteristics that can be tracked through time. The Heinz report likens indicators to human vital signs, such as blood pressure or cholesterol levels. Though indicators do not reflect the drivers behind the health of these rangelands, they can convey important characteristics of overall system health. This essay addresses the need to fill these data gaps. Without addressing these data gaps, we can not correct problems that limit the goods and serves that can be sustainably harvested from our nation’s rangelands.