The first edition (Cambridge University Press, 2002) of this groundbreaking survey of environmental conditions in the United States attempted to define the measures needed to monitor the health of our ecosystems. The scientists involved hoped to identify measurements that would consistently describe particular habitats nationwide regardless of internal political boundaries. Well aware of the highly politicized debates over global warming and other environmental issues, the participants in the project strove to agree on what data would provide the most significant indicators of changes in our environment, in hopes of providing decision makers with unbiased environmental information. In the end, the scientists identified 103 measures that would serve as useful indicators of relevant ecological factors. The ultimate goal was to provide the environmental equivalent of key economic indicators. However, in attempting the actual survey of data, the participants found that for many of these essential measures data did not exist on a consistent, nationwide basis. The first report could only provide full or partial data for 58 indicators. Thus, the project became involved in promoting environmental research and data gathering.
After six years, the situation is only changing slowly. This new edition of the survey includes reports based on partial or full data for 68 environmental indicators, while scientists have also identified several new measures needed for adequate understanding of environmental change. Nonetheless, this report remains the most comprehensive assessment of nation’s land, water and wildlife resources ever undertaken. The text presents the current understanding of 108 measures of the environment. The information is grouped into seven chapters reflecting core indicators on the nation as a whole, or such major habitats as the coasts and oceans, farmlands, forests, fresh water systems, grass and shrub lands, or urban and suburban landscapes. The factors explored include natural landscape patterns, shoreline types, unusual marine mortalities, pesticide presence in streams, forest age, at risk species, housing density changes and recreational use of ecosystems. When nationwide information is lacking on important factors like coastal erosion or non-native plant cover, the entries focus on data gaps, the types of research needed, or related social and environmental issues. Appendices and technical notes describe data collection issues and sources. This important survey will prove valuable for the study of many environmental issues in this country. The volume is highly recommended for all academic and public libraries.