Evaluation Guidelines for Ecological Indicators



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United States Environmental Protection Agency


This document presents fifteen technical guidelines to evaluate the suitability of an ecological indicator for a particular monitoring program. The guidelines are organized within four evaluation phases: conceptual relevance, feasibility of implementation, response variability, and interpretation and utility. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Research and Development has adopted these guidelines as an iterative process for internal and (EPA's) affiliated researchers during the course of indicator development, and as a consistent framework for indicator review. Chapter One describes the guidelines; Chapters Two, Three, and Four illustrate application of the guidelines to three indicators in various stages of development. The example indicators include a direct chemical measure, dissolved oxygen concentration, and two multi-metric biological indices, and index of estuarine benthic condition and one based on stream fish assemblages. The purpose of these illustrations is to demonstrate the evaluation process using real data and working with the limitations of research in progress. Furthermore, these chapters demonstrate that an evaluation may emphasize individual guidelines differently, depending on the type of indicator and the program design. The evaluation process identifies weaknesses that may require further indicator research and modification. This document represents a compilation and expansion of previous efforts, in particular, the initial guidance developed for EPA's Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program (EMAP).


116 pages; available for download at the link below.


ecological indicators, environmental monitoring, ecological assessment, environmental protection