Quantifying and evaluating ecosystem health: A case study from Moreton Bay, Australia
As part of the program monitoring the ecosystem health of Moreton Bay, Queensland, Australia, we developed a means for assessing ecosystem health that allows quantitative evaluation and spatial representations of the assessments. The management objectives for achieving ecosystem health were grouped into ecosystem objectives, water quality objectives, and human health objectives. For the first two groups, aspects of the ecosystem(e.g., trophic status) were identified, and an indicator was chosen for each aspect. Reference values for each indicator were derived from management objectives and compared with the mapped survey values. Subregions for which the indicator statistic was equal to or better than the assigned reference value are referred to as ‘‘compliant zones.’’ High-resolution surface maps were created from spatial predictions on a fine hexagonal grid for each of the indicators. Eight reporting subregions were established based on the depth and predicted residence times of the water. Within each reporting subregion, the proportion that was compliant was calculated. These results then were averaged to create an integrated ecosystem health index. The ratings by a team of ecosystem experts and the calculated ecosystem health indices had good correspondence, providing assurance that the approach was internally consistent, and that the management objectives covered the relevant biologic issues for the region. This method of calculating and mapping ecosystem health, relating it directly to management objectives, may have widespread applicability for ecosystem assessment.
Keywords: ecosystem health index, ecosystem assessment, natural resource management, Moreton Bay, Australia