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Ecosystem Health: More than a Metaphor?

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There is considerable discussion about the nature of the health metaphor as applied to ecosystems. One does not need to accept the analogy of ecosystem as 'organism' to reap insight into the diagnosis of ecosystem ills by applications of approaches pioneered in the health sciences. Ecosystem health can be assessed by the presence or absence of signs ecosystem distress, by direct measures of ecosystem resilience or counteractive capacity, and by evaluation of risks or threats from human activity and natural forces which may decrease the supply of ecological services. The focus of this essay is on what is and what is not implied by the ecosystem health metaphor. It also elaborates a research agenda for this emerging transdiciplinary science. One can argue that beyond the metaphor is the potential for systematic diagnosis of ecosystem ills, development of indicators of ecosystem health, development of early warning indicators of ecosystem dysfunction, development of diagnostic protocols and preventive strategies for maintaining ecological services.
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Keywords: early warning indicators; ecosystem health; ecosystem medicine; ecosystem stress

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 1995-11-01

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  • Environmental Values is an international peer-reviewed journal that brings together contributions from philosophy, economics, politics, sociology, geography, anthropology, ecology and other disciplines, which relate to the present and future environment of human beings and other species. In doing so we aim to clarify the relationship between practical policy issues and more fundamental underlying principles or assumptions.

    Environmental Values has a Journal Impact Factor (2016) of 1.279.
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