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Measuring Ecological Integrity: History, Practical Applications, and Research Opportunities

Wurtzebach, Zachary, Schultz, Courtney
BioScience 2016 v.66 no.6 pp. 446-457
climate change, land management, monitoring, public lands, North America
The concept of ecological integrity is increasingly being used to guide monitoring efforts across North American public land agencies. We provide a history of this concept and outline its primary components on the basis of the scholarly literature. We then examine established structures and processes that incorporate the best available science, spatial and temporal concerns, and management relevance into frameworks for measuring and reporting on ecological integrity. To understand how this is applied in practice, we provide examples from two land-management agencies in North America that have used ecological integrity as a concept to organize their monitoring programs. Laws, agency guidance, organizational structure, and collaborative processes strongly influence the outcomes of ecological integrity–monitoring programs. Further research in this area would be valuable to better understand how different types of land-management agencies can effectively monitor ecological integrity across various spatial and temporal scales and in the context of climate change.