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            United States
            Environmental Protection
                             Policy, Planning,
                             and Evaluation
                                        April 1995
                    A Conceptual Framework

                to Support Development and Use

                  of Environmental Information

                        in Decision-Making
IrtL   .
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                Environmental Statistics and Information Division

                   Office of Policy, Planning, and Evaluation

                      A CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK
This paper is a product of the Environmental Indicators Team of the EPA Environmental
Statistics and Information Division (ESID), under the direction ofN. Phillip Ross. The principal
authors of the paper were Ingrid Schulze and Michael Colby.  The Environmental Indicators
Team also included Margaret Conomos, Bill Garetz, Herbert (Pepi) Lacayo, Tim Stuart, Pat
Wilkinson, and Team Leader Chris Solloway.

The paper is based on a previous draft monograph by I. Schulze, Conceptual Approaches to the
Development and Use of Environmental Indicators and Statistics for Decision Making (12/93).
Other ESID staff who made valuable contributions were: Judy Calem, Chap Gleason, Eleanor
Leonard, James Morant, and Ron Shafer, and special thanks also go to Paul Cough of the Office
of International Activities.

Valuable inspiration for  this paper came, at various times,  from the  work of:  EPA's
Environmental Monitoring and  Assessment Program (EMAP); Environment Canada and
Statistics  Canada; the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD); the
Netherlands' Ministry  of Housing, Physical Planning and  Environment; Bob Costanza
(University of Maryland Center for Environmental  and Estuarine Studies), Glenn Suter (Oak
Ridge National Laboratories), John O'Connor and Robert Goodland (World Bank), and Bruce
Bandurski (International Joint Commission/US & Canada).

Helpful comments and encouragement came from: Anne Kerr of Environment Canada; Albert
Adnaanse from the Netherlands; Wayne Davis and Kim Devonald of the Strategic Planning and
Management Division (ESID's sister division in OPPE/OSPED); Dan Tunstall, Allen Hammond,
and Eric Rodenburg from the World Resources Institute; and members of the Inter-Agency Task
Force on  Sustainable Development Indicators, especially Ted Heintz and Don Rogich from the
Dept. of Interior, and Rob Hendricks from  the USD A Forest Service.  Several reviewers also
provided useful feedback on drafts.

A multitude  of choices and decisions had to be made in the course of writing this paper, on
issues that are highly debatable.  Obviously, not all of the above experts will agree on every
detail of the results, but their assistance is  greatly appreciated.  In the interest of brevity and
readability, not every choice could be fully explained within the confines of the paper. We hope
that readers will ask for clarification when they feel it is needed. All readers are cordially invited
to make suggestions that they believe could improve the proposed framework.

      Acknowledgements  	   i
      List of Tables and Figures  	   iii
      Acronyms  	   iv

Executive Summary  	   v

L     Introduction  	   1
      1.1 What is a System of Environmental Information; What are its Uses? 	   1
      1.2 Why is a Framework Needed?  	   3

EL    Existing Environmental Information Frameworks   	   5
      2.1 Models of Decision-making Processes or Strategies  	   5
      2.2 "Causal" Frameworks  	   5
      2.3 Spatial Frameworks   	   7

m.   The Proposed Framework	   8
      3.1 Extending the Pressure-State-Response Framework  	   8
      3.2 Sub-Categories of PSR/E  	   10
             Pressures on the Environment  	   10
             State of the Environment  	   12
             Societal Responses to Environmental Change	   13
             Effects: Relationships among Pressures, States and/or Responses 	   14
      3.3 The Spatial Dimension: Definition of Geographic Units  	   17

IV.   Making the Framework Operational: Setting Priorities  	   18
      4.1. Policy Goals and Monitoring Priorities   	   18
      4.2. Refining the Framework: Setting Priorities on a Geographic Basis 	   18

V.    From Framework to Information System: Selecting Indicators and
      Summarizing Data for Decision-makers 	   19
      5.1 Indicator/Data Selection Criteria  	   20
      5.2 Summarizing Information for Decision-Makers: Data Aggregation and
             Visualization  	   22

VL   Conclusions	   24

References 	   25
Glossary 	   29
Appendix A:  Other Schematic Views of PSR Subcategories	   31
Appendix B:  PSR/E Sub-category Menu Tables  	   33

Tables and Figures
Figure 1.  A Growing Economy Embedded in a Finite Ecosystem 	  2
Figure 2.  OECD Pressure-State-Response (PSR) Framework 	  6
Table 1.  Typology of Causal Framework Categories (Nomenclature) 	  9
Box 1.    Escalating Interactions between Anthropogenic and "Natural" Phenomena	   11
Figure 3.  Pressure-State-Response/Effects (PSR/E) Framework  	   15
Table 2.  PSR/E Subcategories 	   16
Table 3.  Indicator/Data Selection Criteria   	   21

Appendix A: Alternative PSR Schematic 	   32

Appendix B: PSR/E Sub-category Menu Tables:
Table P.I    UNDERLYING PRESSURES (Sociotechnical Forces)   	   34
Table P.2    INDIRECT PRESSURES (Human Activities, Natural Events/Forces)	   35
Table P.3    DIRECT PRESSURES (Biophysical Stressors)  	   36
Table S.I    STATE of the environment - GLOBAL Ecosystems	   37
Table S.2    STATE of the environment- REGIONAL Ecosystems  	   38
Table S.3    STATE of the environment - LOCAL Ecosystems  	   39
Table R.I    Societal RESPONSES - GOVERNMENT Actions & Policies 	   41
Table R.2    Societal RESPONSES - PRIVATE SECTOR Activities  	   42
Table R.4    Societal RESPONSES - COOPERATIVE EFFORTS 	   43

Acronyms Used
AQI     Air Quality Index
CFC     chlorofluorocarbon
EIA     Environmental Impact Assessment
EMAP   EPA's Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program
EPA     United States Environmental Protection Agency
ERB     EPA/OPPE/OSPED/SPMD/ Environmental Results Branch
ESID    EPA/OPPE/OSPED/Environmental Statistics and Information Division
GIS     geographic information system
IBI      Index of Biotic Integrity
IJC      International Joint Commission, United States and Canada
ITFM    Intergovernmental Task Force on Monitoring Water Quality
NGO    non-governmental organization
NOAA   US Dept. of Commerce/ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
OECD   Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development
OPPE    EPA Office of Policy, Planning, and Evaluation
OSPED   EPA/OPPE/Office of Strategic Planning and Environmental Data
PEP     "Population-Economy-Process" model (Statistics Canada)
PSI      Pollution Standards Index
PSR     Pressure-State-Response
PSR/E   Pressure-State-Response/Effects
SNA     United Nations System of National Accounts
SOE     State of the Environment
UK      United Kingdom
UN      United Nations
UNEP   United Nations Environment Programme
USFWS   United States Fish and Wildlife Service
VEA     valued environmental attribute

                       A CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK

                             Executive Summary
      The Environmental Protection Agency and other government agencies spend millions of
dollars each year on environmental data collection in the United States.  As more monitoring
programs and databases have been added over the years, it has become increasingly difficult to
manage this vast array of information to the fullest advantage. The lack of coordination among
some  of these data  and information-generating activities can result in unnecessary overlap,
incompatible formats, or inconsistent quality controls - all of which make the resulting data or
information less useful. These factors exacerbate the difficulty of making valid secondary uses
of the information, as is increasingly necessary, due to budgetary constraints and the urgency of
decision-making needs. This suggests a need for an integrated system of compatible geospatial
and other data, summary statistics, indices, etc., which can facilitate secondary uses of
environmental information for decision-making.

      An increasingly widely-used framework for organizing environmental information is the
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's "pressure-state- response" (PSR)
model, in which human activities are seen as producing pressures (e.g., pollutant releases) which
may affect the state of the environment, to which societies then respond if the resultant changes
are perceived to be undesirable.  This paper proposes a framework which builds on the PSR
model, in the following ways:

(1)   A derivative category called "Effects" is added, for attributed relationships between two
      or more Pressure, State, and/or Response variables, resulting in a "PSR/E" framework.
(2)   Human driving forces of environmental change, and pressures of non-human origin are
      also included in the framework. Distinctions are made in terms of specific sub-categories
      in which the State of the environment can be measured, and the types of entities making
(3)   Each sub-category is elaborated with a generic menu designed to facilitate linking
      environmental information collection efforts to common sets of environmental values,
      goals, and priorities.

(4)   The framework is consistent with a hierarchical view of ecosystems, allowing for the
      spatial nesting of environmental information, compatible with community- or ecosystem-
      (place-) based approaches to environmental management.

(5)   It is compatible with assessment-driven approaches to indicator selection (e.g., EMAP).

      In the proposed framework, "Pressures"  have been defined more broadly than by the
OECD.  First, we include factors of human and non-human origin, because of the growing
synergy between the impacts of natural processes and anthropogenic forces on the environment.
Second, pressures have been divided into three sub-categories: underlying, indirect, and direct

pressures.  Underlying pressures include social and demographic forces, technological change,
and policies that stimulate economic activities.  Indirect pressures include human activities
(mostly but not exclusively economic activities) intended to benefit human welfare, as well as
some "natural" processes and forces, such as nutrient cycles, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes,
and meteorological events and cycles. Direct pressures include actual biophysical stressors on
the environment, such as pollutant releases, resource extraction, and exotic species introductions.

       The "State" [of the Environment] category is organized to reflect the "spatial nesting" of
ecosystems at global,  regional,  and local  scales,  with an additional sub-category for
environment-related human health and welfare.  Societal Responses are sub-divided by type of
entity making the  response: governments, the private sector, households and individuals, and
cooperative efforts. Figure 3 (page 15) provides a diagrammatic summary of how the PSR/E
framework is organized, with alternative schematics provided in Table 2 (page 16) and Appendix
A (page 33).

       Each Pressure, State, and Response sub-category is further elaborated with an illustrative
menu of elements, provided in Appendix B.  Within the State category, these elements are
society's "valued environmental attributes" (VEAs) - the attributes of ecosystems, human health,
and welfare that are considered  by society to be important and  potentially at risk from human
activities and natural hazards (e.g., biological integrity, landscape hydrologic functions, human
respiratory or neurological functions, the recreational/spiritual benefits of wilderness,  etc.).
Reaching agreement on an essential core set of ecological VEAs is one of the most critical needs
in the framework development process.

       The approach  proposed is consistent with emerging ecosystem or "community-based"
approaches to environmental management, in which data are spatially-referenced, organized on
the basis of ecologically-defined geographic units as well as administrative units. To make the
framework operational, the generic menus of pressures, VEAs, and responses would need to be
tailored to specific geographic units.   Because an environmental information system cannot
measure everything, priorities must be set - through a collaborative process with stakeholders -
among the menu elements  for different geographic areas and spatial scales.  In addition, an
ecosystem-based information system  must take into  account  the  multi-scaled nature of
human-environment interactions, and permit local and regional environmental values, goals, and
information needs to be nested and linked within national and international ones.

       In  the  last section of the paper, indicator/data selection criteria and  approaches for
summarizing data for decision-makers  (e.g., indices) are discussed.  Indicators  themselves
should, however, be tailored to specific user needs, and are therefore not specified as part of this
conceptual framework.
       An  environmental information framework is a tool, not a structure cast in  stone.  Its
contents will evolve as our understanding of human-environment interactions improves and as
society's environmental values evolve. Development of a framework would therefore need to be
an iterative process, requiring collaboration among the numerous stakeholders in an information
system, including EPA program and regional offices, states, the  public, and other agencies that
share environmental management responsibilities with EPA. Other programs and initiatives,
including the Environmental Monitoring  and  Assessment Program (EMAP)  and EPA's
Environmental Goals Project,  will  also provide critical input to  a  framework for  an
environmental information system.

                         A CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK
      In the twentieth century, human societies have expanded over the face of the earth at an
unprecedented rate.  World population doubled between 1950 and 1986, while gross world
product and levels of fossil fuel consumption each quadrupled (Daly, 1989a). Flows of matter
and energy through the human economy are in many cases now similar in magnitude to the flows
of natural cycles and processes (Vitousek et al, 1986).  Society may be entering an era where
natural capital (natural resources, biological species, and ecosystem services), as much as human
and produced capital, is becoming a limiting factor in economic development (see Figure  1).
These factors bring into question whether development as it has been practiced is sustainable.

      As societies appropriate ever more of nature's resources and services, there is increasing
recognition that greater care is needed in decision-making regarding their use.  There is also
agreement that decision-making must be based on sound information. This is evident from the
increasing focus,  both nationally and internationally, on  "state of the environment" (SOE)
monitoring and reporting, environmental performance reviews and sustainable development
indicators. Moreover, as cumulative human impacts on the environment become increasingly
apparent, there is  a trend toward more holistic community- or ecosystem-based approaches to
environmental decision-making (Slocombe, 1993; Grumbine, 1994; EPA, 1994c).

      The purpose of this paper is to propose the development of a conceptual framework for a
unified system of environmental information (geospatial and other data,  summary statistics,
indices, etc.). This framework would identify society's environmental values, goals and priorities
on a geographic basis at various spatial scales. In doing so, it could help identify, link, and drive
the collection of data to support ecosystem-based environmental assessmenti and management,
including assessment of the environmental sustainability of human activities.

1.1 What is a System of Environmental Information; What are its Uses?

      The  Environmental Protection Agency  (EPA)  relies   on  a vast  patchwork of
environmental, economic and social data from many different sources as a  basis for its policy
analyses and management decisions. The utility, accessibility, and cost-effectiveness of the data
used by EPA could be significantly improved if the present patchwork of data sources were part
of a larger, more coherent body of information.

      EPA is already one of the largest federal users of spatially referenced (geographic) data,
and as the Agency moves closer to a community- or ecosystem-based approach to environmental
protection, its need  for geographic data is likely to increase considerably.  The usefulness of
existing geographic data is  seriously compromised by  a lack  of common standards and
agreement on data uses, types and formats (NRC, 1993).  The United States needs a coordinated
national spatial data infrastructure, as recently endorsed in Executive Order 12906.
 1      Environmental assessment is defined here as analysis and interpretation of environment related data for use
 in decision-making.


              Figure 1. A Growing Economy Embedded in a Finite Ecosystem
       'Empty World"
                "Full World"
                                                          recycled matter & energy
              Natural capital
Human & Produced capital   M = matter    E = energy
  In the preindustrial, emptier world, the magnitude of the human economic subsystem was small relative to the
  large but finite global ecosystem. This has changed as the economy has grown, moving toward the "full world"
  scenario.  The economy expropriates ever more material and energy from the ecosystem as resources, and
  subsequently releases more and more degraded matter/energy back into the ecosystem as pollutants or wastes.
  The scale of these "throughput" flows in many cases now compares to "natural" flows (e.g., carbon and water
  cycles, even primary [plant] production), so that the larger economy can be seen as interfering with some global
  ecosystem processes (e.g., ultraviolet filtration by stratospheric ozone, climate regulation, overall productivity).
  Thus, the extraction of resources and the discharge of wastes increasingly act as "pressures" on  the
  environment's ability to maintain its "state of health," including basic life-support functions. These pressures in
  turn  "feed back" on the economy, in that it must perform an increasing amount of the recycling function that
  nature did in the emptier world, (adapted from Goodland & Daly, 1993).
       An environmental information system can be envisioned as a large array of environment
related data series and other types  of information, collected through networks of monitoring
programs at multiple geographic scales which  are integrated or coordinated at a number of
levels. Ideally, such integration or coordination includes both data integration, and coordination
at the level of the societal values,  goals and priorities used  to structure the system.  Some
important aspects of data integration include use of compatible definitions and classifications of
variables; comparable field, remote sensing, and laboratory methods;  compatible sampling
design guidelines; and comparable database formats.
       The contents of an environmental information system  can include various kinds of
quantitative and qualitative information,  including both geographic and non-spatially referenced

data, summary statistics, indices, maps, projections of indicators in time, and various other kinds
of model outputs useful for decision-making (e.g., risk estimates).  An indicator is a parameter
(i.e., a measured or observed property), or some value derived from parameters (e.g., via an
index or model), which  provides managerially useful information about patterns or trends
(changes) in the state of the environment, in human activities that affect or are affected by the
environment, or about relationships among such variables.  Note that indicators, as defined here,
can include information used in environmental management at any scale, not just by high-level
policy-makers. Indices are aggregations of statistics and/or indicators, used to summarize often
large quantities of related information. Maps, graphs, photographs, diagrams, etc., can be used
to present both quantitative and qualitative information.

       One existing example of an integrated information system is the United Nations' System
of National Accounts (SNA), the widely used economic statistical system. The SNA is based on
a theoretical model of the economic exchange/flow system, uses money as a common metric, and
applies generally accepted concepts, definitions and classifications (UN, 1984). In contrast to the
economy, however,  there is no single macro-model of human-environment interactions which
can be used to structure an environmental information system, and no common measuring unit.
The dynamics of human-ecosystem interactions are at least as complex as economic dynamics,
and they cannot readily be divorced from their spatial (geographic) context. Environmental
interactions can be  indirect, delayed, and highly nonlinear, and our understanding of these
interactions is fraught with uncertainty. Thus, an environmental information system would have
to be built on a variety of conceptual models, and include many different kinds of environmental
and societal data and information.

       The basic functions of an  environmental information system are to  support  the
assessment of environmental  problems, and  to facilitate reporting  on these questions to
policy-makers and the general public (usually under conditions of uncertainty). Environmental
assessments typically seek to address one or more of three fundamental needs:

•      Determine environmental and related societal conditions and changes (status and trends):
       i.e.,  is something happening that we should be concerned about?;
•      Diagnose potential causes of detected problems or changes in condition;

•      Predict or develop scenarios of future impacts of human activities, environmental change,
       and  alternative responses to them.

Development of an operational information system also requires a detailed specification of user
needs.  For example, as a basis for developing its geographic information system (GIS), EPA's
Region 2 has done an  extensive analysis, on a program-by-program basis, of user needs  for
geographic  data (EPA Region n, 1994b).

1.2 Why is a Framework Needed?

       It has often been said that EPA is "data-rich but information-poor." Billions of dollars
have been  spent on environmental data collection in this  country, yet many  environmental
management decisions must be made  on the basis of insufficient or inadequate data.  A
conceptual framework for an environmental information system should help:

•      link existing environment-related data to policy and management needs;

•      integrate data sets on a geographic basis to support ecosystem-based decision-making;

•      identify duplication and  gaps in existing information collection efforts; and

•      provide an impetus for the development of new data and indicators to fill gaps.

       Several  factors  underlie this  need  for a unifying  framework. The conceptual
 underpinnings of information collection, analysis, and interpretation are linked to environmental
 decision-making processes at several levels.  At one level, information generation and use is
 driven by the  statutory and regulatory framework (e.g., policy  goals).   At a deeper level,
 approaches  to  environmental assessment and  management  are  also influenced  by the
 philosophical paradigms that shape peoples' visions of human-nature relationships , and by the
 biophysical or scientific models used in environmental research and assessment (Colby, 1990).
 These paradigms and models shape the perception of problems and  how people filter and
 evaluate evidence, at least in part because they predispose people to asking different sets of
 questions.   Ideally,  the  legal/regulatory framework  and the paradigms  that influence
 decision-making should be compatible with the scientific ones used in environmental research
 and assessment.  However, this has often not been the case.  A conceptual framework for an
 environmental information system should strive to integrate the scientific, legal/regulatory, and
 philosophical paradigms that underlie  information generation and use.  Thus,  a  framework
 should do more than codify a collection of existing policy goals, and the resulting information
 system should be more than the agglomeration of databases from existing monitoring programs.

       Emerging ecosystem approaches to decision-making can help form the basis for such a
 unifying framework.  These approaches apply principles and methods of ecological science to
 the analysis and management of human-environment interactions.  Some relevant characteristics
 of an ecosystem approach include the following:2

 •      inclusion of people and their activities in the ecosystem;
 •      viewing ecosystem structure and function at multiple scales;

 •      use of ecological boundaries to define environmental planning, assessment and
       management units;

 •      geographically comprehensive, systems-level analyses of interactions among physical,
       chemical, biological, and social components;

 •      adaptive management strategies, based on feedback from new information, to improve
       management and policy under conditions of uncertainty;

 •      participatory management involving all stakeholder groups;

 •      integration of science and human values in formulating goals for protecting ecosystem
       integrity; and

 •      recognition of ecosystem limits to action,  i.e., defining and seeking sustainability.

       Following this paradigm, a conceptual framework for an ecosystem-based information
 system should  consist of hierarchical sets of environmental values, goals and priorities for
 ecosystems defined at various spatial scales, with sustainability of human activities as an explicit
 goal or constraint. Such a framework should seek to be anticipatory, by focusing on long-term
 and emerging environmental issues as well as more immediate regulatory concerns,  in keeping
 with the intergenerational focus of the concept of sustainability.
2      Ecosystem approaches reflect concerns about traditional reductionist approaches to environmental
assessment and management, which tend, among other problems, to treat media (air, water, soil, and biota)
independently, and inadequately address cumulative effects of multiple stressors. See, for example: Rolling, 1978;
Allen et al, 1993; Slocombe, 1993; Grumbine, 1994.


II.    Existing Environmental Information Frameworks

      At the simplest level, a conceptual framework is a mental model which provides a means
of organizing thought processes or categorizing information about a subject  However, mental
models are generally not a sufficient basis for integrating or organizing data, or for driving data
collection.   Most existing  frameworks for environmental information collection, analysis,
interpretation, and/or reporting have tended to be one of three general types:

(I)    models of a decision-making process or strategy, that define, among other things, the
      relationship between indicators and societal values and/or policy goals, or

(n)   models of environmental processes and human-environment interactions (i.e., simplified
      models of "the world"), which in turn tend to be of two types:

      (a)    "causal" frameworks that classify environmental problems broadly in terms of the
             overall causal flow of human-environment interactions.

      (b)    spatial frameworks that classify the land areas of interest where environmental
             problems are occurring.

      In fact, these three types of frameworks are complementary, in the sense that they
actually address different but equally important conceptual dimensions  of the information
generation process.  The following sections will discuss each of these dimensions of a conceptual
framework in turn.

2.1 Models of Decision-making Processes or Strategies
      The  term,  "indicator framework"  has  been  applied  by the International  Joint
Commission/United States and Canada  (IJC, 1991)  to denote their conceptual strategy for
developing ecosystem goals, objectives and indicators as a basis for ecosystem management of
the Great Lakes.  The term is used similarly by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the
Environment (CCME,  1994).  EPA's Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program
(EMAP) also describes their indicator development strategy as a framework, including linkage of
indicators to ecological and human use values (EPA, 1994a).   EMAP indicators are not
necessarily linked to policy goals per se, since existing goals do not necessarily incorporate the
entire range of ecosystem characteristics that society values.

2.2 "Causal" Frameworks

      "Causal" frameworks seek to organize or classify environmental information  in terms of
the aggregate  causal flow or "cycle"  of human-environment interactions.   Early causal
frameworks  for environmental statistics (Rapport and Friend 1979, UN 1984) were generally
intended as the physical basis for comprehensive environmental/resource accounts which could
be linked to  the UN System of National Accounts (SNA). Resource accounting seeks to trace
the flow of natural resources through their life cycle from harvesting/extraction to disposal and
environmental  impacts.  Such  frameworks have usually attempted to break down natural
resource stocks and human-environment interactions in a manner that maximizes the consistency
with the SNA (UN 1984).  A more recent environmental statistics framework with  an explicit
linkage to the SNA is Statistics Canada's PEP model (Hamilton, 1991; Statistics Canada, 1991).

       Such environmental/resource accounting frameworks have striven for comprehensive
coverage of natural resources and human-environment interactions. However,  implementation
typically has been restricted to a limited range of economically and politically important issues
(e.g., oil and gas, timber, greenhouse gas emissions - Environment Canada, 1993), particularly
ones that can be linked to macroeconomic models used in economic planning and environmental
policy  analysis (ERL Nederland BV, 1992).  The Canadian PEP model has also been used to
structure Statistics Canada's environmental statistics compendium.

       A widely used simplification and adaptation of Rapport and Friend's (1979) early "stress-
response" model is the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's "pressure-
state-response" (PSR) framework (OECD, 1991,  1993).  In  contrast to  the earlier "stress-
response" model, which unrealistically tried to make one-to-one linkages among particular
stresses, environmental changes and societal responses, the OECD PSR framework does not
attempt to specify the nature or form of the interactions between human activities and the state of
the environment. This simple PSR framework merely states that human activities exert pressures
(such as pollution emissions or land use changes) on the environment, which can induce changes
in the  state of the environment (for example, changes in  ambient pollutant levels, habitat
diversity, water  flows, etc.).   Society then responds to changes in pressures or state  with
environmental and economic policies and programs intended  to prevent,  reduce or mitigate
pressures  and/or environmental damage.   The OECD PSR  framework does not specify the
contents of the pressure, state or response categories, except in the broadest terms; see Figure 2.
                 Figure 2. OECD Pressure-State-Response Framework



< ^©©©aamss |
State of the Environment
and of natural resources


Living Resources


-* — i 	 '
Societal Responses
(Decisions - Actions)
Economic and


                         Societal Responses (Decisions - Actions)

       The PSR framework is probably the most widely accepted causal framework at present,
hi part due to its simplicity and the fact that it can be applied at any scale. It has been used as a
format for organizing state of the environment reports in OECD member countries such as the
Netherlands^ for structuring the OECD's national environmental performance reviews (e.g.,
OECD, 1994), and for structuring possible sets of sustainable development indicators for the UN
Commission on Sustainable Development and World Bank (SCOPE 1994; O'Connor 1994).

2.3 Spatial Frameworks

       Historically, spatial frameworks  for  environmental  assessment, planning, and
management were organized by jurisdictional or administrative units (national, state, county, and
municipality boundaries, census divisions).  While readily understandable to the public and
amenable to government action, these units rarely reflect patterns and processes of ecosystems.
Alternatively, a number of land or ecosystem classification systems have been developed over
the past twenty years to classify geographic areas for environmental management and planning
purposes, based on common properties such as watersheds, climatic zones, vegetation, and soil
types.  Among the best known of these efforts are:
•      US Geological Survey's land use/land cover classification system (Anderson, 1970/76)

•      UNESCO's terrestrial vegetation-based classification system (Driscoll et al., 1983)
•      US Fish & Wildlife Service's wetland/deepwater habitat classification system used for the
       National Wetlands Inventory (Cowardin et al, 1979)

•      US Forest Service's Ecoregions of the United States (Bailey, 1976)

•      Environment Canada's Terrestrial Ecozones of Canada (Wiken, 1986)

•      Omernik's (1987) Ecoregions of the Conterminous United States.

       For the most part, such land classification systems have been developed independently, to
achieve different objectives, and lack compatibility with one another. Efforts have been made to
hybridize some of the existing classification systems.4  Some countries have developed national
ecosystem classification systems which subdivide geographic areas into regions  at various scales
from ecozones down to ecoregions,  ecodistricts,  and sometimes still smaller spatial units.5
Hierarchical ecosystem classification  approaches based on the abiotic and biotic factors that
govern the development/distribution of ecosystems (e.g., climate, geology, groundwater, surface
water,  soil, vegetation and fauna) have proven useful for environmental planning, management
and reporting in various countries.
3      The Netherlands' Environmental Policy Performance Indicators report (Adriaanse, 1993) uses the OECD's
PSR model as a macro-framework, reporting on pressure, state, and response indicators for each of about ten major
issues, and then looks at each economic sector to determine how much it contributes to each issue (problems or

4      One collaborative U.S. effort, led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA),
hybridized portions of the Cowardin and Anderson classifications (Klemas et al, 1993; Khorram et al., 1994). The
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has hybridized the UNESCO, Cowardin, and Anderson systems for use in
its Gap Analysis Program (Jennings, 1993).

5      E.g., Canada (Wiken, 1986), the Netherlands (Klijn and Udo de Haes, 1994), and Omemik's ecoregion
approach used in the United States for surface water management (Hughes et al, 1986).


       In general, ecosystem boundary definition is a thorny and somewhat arbitrary exercise,
 driven at least in part by the particular uses of classification (e.g., Gallant et al, 1989).  In spite of
 the difficulties of defining ecosystem boundaries in a universally useful manner, however,
 government agencies such as EPA and the U.S. Department of Interior are increasingly focusing
 on ecosystem or community-based approaches to environmental  management.
 III.    The Proposed Framework:
       Integrating PSR and Ecosystem-based Assessment
       As noted earlier, the OECD's pressure-state-response framework is a simple macro-level
model which has been used primarily as a format for organizing state-of-the-environment (SOE)
reporting, national environmental performance reviews,  and more recently, sustainable
development indicators. It implies a general sense of causal progression: human actions serve as
pressures on the environment, some of which may lead to measurable changes in its state, to
which humans may then respond in an effort to reduce the pressures or prevent, repair or adapt
to the impacts. The original OECD PSR framework was robust and useful, as is evident from its
widespread application. However, it requires some clarification and refinement to be used as a
basis for developing an ecosystem-based information system.

       Section 3.1 proposes adding an "Effects" category to OECD's PSR, yielding "PSR/E," as
the basis for developing an  environmental information  system.  Section 3.2 discusses sub-
categories of Pressures, State, Response, and Effects. Section 3.3 addresses the need to elaborate
this  PSR/E framework for specific geographic units at various scales. Section IV will then
discuss some general approaches for setting priorities for information collection.

3.1 Extending the Pressure-State-Response Framework

       In comparing the PSR framework to various other causal frameworks and environmental
assessment programs, it was noticed that a variety of terms are used in different ways to cover
similar categories. Some use  the term "response" to refer  to ecosystem responses to stresses, or
changes in the state of the environment, while others use it to mean societal responses to mitigate
such changes  in state. Some use "activities" to refer to human pressures, while others use the
same term to refer to societal responses. Some use "effects" or "impacts" simply to  denote
changes in the state, while others use it to indicate attributed relationships between pressures or
societal responses and the state of the environment.   Table  1 summarizes the terms used for
analogous categories in a number of existing frameworks.

      While  cause-effect relationships are difficult to establish, environmental decision-making
commonly relies on assumptions about (and  plausible evidence for) such linkages in order to
determine appropriate management responses. For example, the environment has the capacity to
absorb (process) some stress, and data showing the presence of pressures alone is not an
assurance that a significant change in the state of the environment has occurred as a result of that
pressure. Furthermore, a change in state does not necessarily mean that there is a problem; even
when there is, without knowing  what caused the change, it is difficult to decide on  a  proper
management response. Thus, models and analyses which show relationships among variables
(e.g., environmental conditions  and potential causes) generally  have the most meaning  for
environmental decision makers.

 Table 1. Typology of Causal Framework Categories (Nomenclature) 6
Statistics Canada/
STRESS (1979)
Statistics Canada/
PEP (1991)
Canada (1991b)
OECD PSR (1991)
Netherlands (1993)
World Bank (1994)
ITFM (1992)
EPA/ EMAP (1993)
sors; Stresses,
Natural Activity
Natural Events,
some Inventories
Flows: Wastes,
Resources, &
Human Activity
& Stresses
Asset Stocks
Stocks, &
Natural Assets
& Processes
Conditions &
Status & Trends
Collective &
to Environmental
Regulations &
[by Programs or
by Sources]

of activities/ events
Envir. Benefits
& Impacts on

(Human Health,
Ecological Damage)
6      Note that the table shows broad similarities only. Definitions of the analogous categories used by different
organizations are not identical, nor is (was) implementation of the frameworks necessarily equal to the conceptual
models summarized here.

       To address this need for information about relationships in decision-making, a fourth
category, termed "Effects," has been added to the  basic PSR-type framework, defined as
indicators of attributed relationships between  two or more  pressure, state and/or response
variables.^  This category would contain whatever relationships are well-enough understood to
make such attributions, derived from modeling and analyses of the connections between the
primary  variable categories.  (Note that an Effect can be about a relationship between two
different pressures - e.g., an underlying or an indirect and a direct pressure - as well as between
a pressure or a response and a state variable, etc.) Effects information can be useful to help
establish decision criteria for setting quantitative environmental policy goals.
3.2 Sub-Categories of PSR/E
       Several of the frameworks compared in Table 1 have implicit or explicit sub-categories,
within the Pressure, State, and Response categories.  The following is an attempt to synthesize
these existing frameworks into an elaborated PSR/E framework.

    Pressures on the Environment
       As alluded to in Figure 1, human-induced flows of many elements and compounds now
occur at levels similar to the flows found in nature (e.g., nutrients, carbon dioxide, methane).
Unfortunately, inventories of anthropogenic pollutant releases  often neglect to compare them to
natural flows,  which may lead to inappropriate  responses.   Human-derived pressures now
interact pervasively with natural processes.  Simple, direct "environmental impacts" are being
supplanted by more complicated webs of interacting, cumulative impacts. Phenomena that were
once considered  "acts of nature" are now better understood as often being caused or at least
exacerbated by human activities (see Box 1).  We propose assessing all direct pressures, then
making an effort to distinguish between their sources (and relative scales), in a loose causal chain
[web]  from  underlying  pressures (of purely human origin) to indirect pressures (a mixture of
human activities and natural processes), which in turn cause or contribute to the direct pressures:

•      Underlying societal pressures are the social and technological forces that motivate or
       otherwise drive human activities, which  in turn cause many of the direct biophysical
       pressures on the environment.  E.g.,  human population growth, social structure,
       technology changes, cultural attitudes, and basic policies that drive economic activity.

•      Indirect pressures are the human activities (mostly economic activities, e.g.: agriculture,
       mining, manufacturing, transportation, consumption  by  individuals and  households)
       related  to human sustenance or the improvement of human  welfare, plus natural
       processes and factors (e.g.,  population and nutrient cycles, meteorological events,
       earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, etc.), many of which interact with human pressures and
       some of which act alone to create direct biophysical pressures on the environment.

•      Direct pressures are the actual biophysical inputs and outputs  that may exert immediate
       stress  on  ecosystems.  These  include anthropogenic pollutant releases, resource
       harvesting and extraction, land use changes, and species introductions.  Also, the
       background flows (not the same as ambient levels or conditions) of those "natural"
7      Diagnosis of causes of particular environmental or societal changes is usually difficult, and multiple
causation is the norm rather than the exception. Determination of cause-effect linkages cannot rely on statistics
alone, and a number of other criteria must be applied in order to conclude that cause-effect relationships exist (e.g.,
strength, specificity, consistency, biological or physical plausibility of an association).


       stressors that are greater than or comparable to the anthropogenic pressures (perhaps
       within 1-2 orders of magnitude, if smaller).
Box 1. Escalating Interactions between Anthropogenic and "Natural" Pressures

Floods are often seen as an act of nature - the occurrence of high rainfall in a short period of
time.  However, human actions have grown to influence flooding in several ways. (1) When rain
does fall, an area whose vegetative cover has been greatly altered (e.g., by paving surfaces or
deforestation) will not be able to absorb as much of the rain, resulting in higher runoff and flash
flooding. (2) Major river channels (e.g., the Mississippi) that have been straightened and cut off
from  natural floodplains (by dikes, etc.) will not be able to absorb and transmit the higher
inflows from their tributaries, overtopping their banks.   (3) Even in  the absence of these
aggravating factors, floods can be perceived to be worse than in the past, because more people
live in or engage in economic activities (agriculture, resorts, other commerce) on the floodplains,
so their effects in terms of higher human and economic damages are worse, even when the actual
act of nature (the amount of water flowing) is no more severe. (4) Finally, humans may actually
now be causing greater extremes in precipitation levels and storm events, by altering climate at a
global scale (by changing the balance of the atmospheric gases that reflect or absorb heat).  This
is likely  to  result (if it has not already) in greater variability in precipitation patterns, which
would indeed mean more severe floods and droughts-

Droughts and desertification have historically been considered to be a natural phenomenon that
is the mirror image to floods: the lack of precipitation.  However, long before the anticipated
effects of global climate change are felt, micro-climate can be altered by humans at local levels.
By denuding an area's vegetation (forests and  other ground cover), local evapotranspiration
cycles can  be disrupted, resulting in less local rainfall, which further changes the vegetation
cover, in a  runaway feedback loop to more severe drought.  When larger climate patterns (e.g.,
monsoons)  do bring rain, the area is then more vulnerable to flash flooding because its capacity
for absorbing the precipitation has been reduced, as described above.  The flash floods in turn
exacerbate  soil erosion, which further decreases the ability to regenerate vegetative cover. As
vegetation declines further, even less water is absorbed, and both the wet and the dry seasons
become dryer...

Pest outbreaks  tend to become more frequent, extensive, and severe where humans  have
disrupted population balances in ecological communities, usually by simplifying them (through
monocultures) to concentrate productivity on one or a few particular species or  strains.  This
creates a larger, denser, and less genetically variable host population for the pest, a phenomenon
well-understood in the context of human disease epidemics as encouraging to the spread of a
pathogen.  Then, most widespread efforts to fight the pest outbreaks (or associated  disease)
involve the application of concentrated chemicals (drugs/biocides) which further simplify the
ecological community if they kill not just the target (pest) organism, but also the organisms that
would provide some natural controls on the pest species.  And  finally, the pest populations
rapidly evolve resistance to  the  biocides, necessitating an ever-escalating battle, involving
increasing the amount and/or the toxicity of the biocides, further simplifying the community, and
so on...
       At first,  the inclusion of some natural processes and flows as  pressures may seem
confusing, or redundant with the idea of monitoring ambient conditions in the "State" category.
This approach has been chosen as a compromise between two alternative paths. In the original,

 basic PSR model, all "pressures" on the environment were human in origin. This approach is
 widely acknowledged as being too narrow - indeed too anthropocentric in an increasingly "full
 world" (see Figure 1, Box 1).  At the other end of the spectrum, one could have separate
 subcategories for indirect societal pressures (human activities), which are in turn driven by the
 underlying pressures, and natural pressures (which are not). In practice, however, this would be
 difficult to implement  Again, as  illustrated in Box 1, because multiple causality is the norm
 rather than the exception, it is all too often very difficult to distinguish precisely how much of a
 problem stems from each individual contributing factor.  Therefore,  we have "lumped" human
 and natural pressures together for now.  Tables P.I through P.3  hi Appendix B provide detailed
 lists of the potential elements of each of the three pressure sub-categories.

    State of the Environment

       The State of the  Environment category is concerned with ambient physical, chemical,
 biological, and ecological conditions; changes in ecosystem composition, structure and function
 at various spatial and temporal scales  (including the "built"  environment);  human health; and
 environmentally-related welfare. There are a number of ways to  sub-categorize State, e.g.,:

 •      by nested spatial  scales (Local, Regional, and Global ecosystems), plus Human Health
       and Environment-related Welfare;
 •      by Biological, Chemical, Physical, and Ecological functions or variables.
 Discussion in this paper will focus on the former approach, as shown in Figure 3 and Table 2,
 (on pages 15-16) though a diagram for the latter is provided in Appendix A.

       Ecosystems are characterized by complex interactions and feedback relationships among
 a multitude of potential stressors and receptors over a wide range of spatial and temporal scales.
 Ecosystems and their functions can be viewed in a hierarchical fashion, meaning that processes
 that operate at larger scales tend to control or constrain those at smaller scales (Urban et al 1987,
 O'NeUl et al 1989).  In addition, while some large scale properties of ecosystems can simply be
 treated as an aggregation of their component  parts, others only emerge from the interactions of
 the component parts or processes. Thus, the usefulness of a nested spatial approach.

       It is concerns about  changes in or effects on "Valued Environmental Attributes"
 ("VEAs") that ultimately drive environmental decision-making.  VEAs refer to those aspects of
 ecosystems  (and human health and  environmentally-related welfare, as discussed below) that are
 considered by society to be important and potentially at risk from human activities and/or natural
 hazards.8 It is important to note that the societal value of ecosystems cannot be determined
 solely on the basis of public preference,  since  many people  may  be unaware of the  value
 ultimately derived  from  ecosystem services.  Over time, the number of ecological attributes
 found to be essential for maintaining the viability and stability of the biosphere (and therefore,
 economies and cultures) has continued to grow.
       VEAs can range from individual valued species (e.g., trout species native to Yellowstone
 National Park), to landscape scale functions (e.g., hydrology of wetland systems), to global scale
 features (e.g., the stratospheric ozone layer's ability to filter ultraviolet radiation). Some VEAs
 are clearly already enshrined in existing legislation. For example, the Clean Water Act contains
8      One important theme in ecosystem management is the need to integrate scientific concepts with human
values in developing policy goals. In ecological risk and impact assessment, various terms including "valued
environmental components," "receptors," or "resources at risk" have been used to denote the valued attributes of
concern in individual assessments. In the same way that valued attributes can provide a bridge between policy and
science in individual assessments, they can provide a policy-relevant approach for helping to drive the development
of an environmental information system.


an explicit goal of protecting biological integrity of surface waters, and this VEA has been
operationally defined as "biotic integrity" for some fish and benthic communities.  At present, no
generally accepted, comprehensive classification of ecological attributes in policy-relevant terms
exists.9  Development of an information system should begin with a comprehensive effort to
identify VEAs, followed by indicators for them.

      The State Tables (S.1-S.3) in Appendix B include a provisional listing of VEAs at local.
regional, and global ecosystem scales, as well as listings of pressures and other conditions whose
ambient levels in the environment would need to be monitored. Much work remains to be done,
however, if essential core sets of valued ecological attributes at different scales are to be defined
in operational terms that can be measured.

      Human Health and Welfare

      Ecosystem approaches  to environmental decision-making view humans as integral
components of the ecosystem.  Concerns  about health and welfare impacts of exposure to
pollutants are a central concern in environmental assessment. In human health risk assessment,
the societal goal of protecting human health  from environmental hazards can be defined in terms
of lifespan and morbidity (diseases or disorders) of different functional systems of the body (e.g.,
circulatory,  respiratory, immune systems) as well as psychological health  (see Appendix B,
Table S.4).  Environment-related Welfare concerns  include the economic value to humans of
biophysical  changes in ecosystems  and human health,  e.g.: value of marketed  environmental
goods,  non-market use  and  non-use  values,  and  the  value to  society   of ecosystem
functions/services. Non-economic measures can also be used, such as quality of life and equity.
Sometimes environmental, economic, and social values may conflict with each other; different
temporal scales may drive such conflicts.

   Societal Responses to Environmental Change

      Societal responses are defined as purposeful actions to  address observed or predicted
ecological, human health or welfare changes or impacts that are considered  undesirable.  The
actions  can be voluntary, legally mandated, or incentive-driven, and can be aimed at cleanup,
mitigation, restoration, prevention, or adaptation.  The societal response category can be
subdivided by type of entity/actor making the response, e.g.:
•     Government actions, including: environmental legislation, changes  in fiscal/economic
      policies, regulations, monitoring, etc.
•     Private sector  activities, including: product and process redesign, waste treatment and
      disposal, cleanup efforts, changes in technologies used.
•     Individual/household attitudes and actions, including: changes in consumption patterns,
      recycling, contributions to NGOs, etc.

•     Cooperative efforts, including: research, education, land use planning commissions,
      public-private partnerships, international agreements, etc.
9      Some potentially useful approaches have emerged. These tend to focus on terms such as ecological
"integrity," "health," or "sustainability" (Woodley et al 1993, Angermeier & Karr 1994, Costanza et al 1992);
ecosystem "functions" or "services" (Westman 1977, Preston & Bedford 1988, Ehrlich & Ehrlich 1992, Baskin
1994); or "biodiversity" (Fischman 1991; Ehrlich & Ehrlich 1992; Angermeier and Karr 1994).


    Effects: Relationships among Pressures, States and/or Responses

       Effects indicators concern attributed relationships between two or more variables within
any of the P, S and R categories. They are based on models and analyses that provide plausible
evidence of a linkage between a problem, potential causes, and/or solutions.  In principle,
indicators of this type should provide a relatively greater degree of certainty than just P, S or R
indicators  about what is  happening, why,  and/or  what societal responses might be  most
appropriate. Sub-categories of Effects are not specified in Figure  3, but among the  most
important types of Effects are:

•      Effects of Underlying Pressures on Human Activities (Indirect Pressures). E.g., effects of
       population growth on the energy sector.

•      Effects of Human  Activities  (Indirect Pressures) on  Levels  of Biophysical Stressors
       (Direct Pressures'). E.g.: CFC emissions associated with use and repair of automobile air

•      Ecological Effects (of Pressures or Responses on State). E.g., effects of: CFC releases on
       stratospheric ozone, exotic species introductions on native biodiversity, sewage treatment
       plants on water quality, regulation of lead in fuel on public exposure.

•      Human Health Impacts.  E.g.: lung cancer incidence  associated with radon exposure;
       extent of mental retardation due to childhood lead exposure.

•      Human Welfare Impacts. E.g.: economic and other costs of exotic species outbreaks such
       as Zebra mussels on aquaculture, shipping, recreation, and power generation; aesthetic
       and  spiritual values  associated with preservation of wilderness areas.

       Figure 3 and Table 2 summarize the subcategories proposed for the PSR/E framework.
A series of tables in Appendix B offer a provisional listing of the contents of each of the P, S
and R subcategories of the  PSR/E framework, based on present scientific knowledge and policy
concerns.  Note that the Effects category of the PSR/E model does not require its own set of
menus, as it represents a category of functional relationships between elements in the other
(P,S,R) categories.  The menus in the Appendix are as follows:

    • Table P.I   Underlying Pressures (Sociotechnical Forces)

    • Table P.2  Indirect Pressures (Economic Activities, Natural Processes & Factors)
    • Table P.3  Direct Pressures (Biophysical  Stressors)

   • Table S.I   State of the Environment: Global Scale Ecosystems
   • Table S.2   State of the Environment:Regional Scale Ecosystems
   • Table S.3   State of the Environment: Local Scale Ecosystems

   • Table S.4   State of the Environment: Human Health and Welfare

   • Table R. 1   Societal Responses: Government

   • Table R.2  Societal Responses: Private Sector

   • Table R.3  Societal Responses: Individuals/Households

   • Table  R.4  Societal Responses: Cooperative Efforts

                  Figure3.   Pressure-State-Response/Effects  (PSR/E) Framework
on the Environment

Socio-Technical Forces
     Human Activities
I Natural Factors & Processes
       "Releases" of
    Biophysical Stressors
                          Resources &
                                          of the Environment, including
                                      Ambient levels of Pressures, Condition
                                       of Valued Environmental Attributes


                          HUMAN HEALTH
                             & WELFARE
                                                                     Societal Responses
                                                                         by Society

                                                                     Policies & Actions
                                                                                  f PRIVATE SECTOR
                                                                                  I     Activities
                                                                                  v	 .: -...:....;...-:-i^

                                                                                     Attitudes & Actions
:                '             EFFECTS       •   . •.>'•  =• •' '-'.'.;/.
 Attributed/Hypothesized Relationships between Pressure, State, and/or Response Variables

Table 2. Pressure-State-Response/Effects (PSR/E) Subcategories

Note: This Table should be read DOWN the columns, not across the rows. A cell in any particular column may be
related to all the cells in the other columns, not just those that appear within the same row.  (Pressures and
Responses can act at local, regional, and/or global scales, but scale is an especially important distinguishing factor
for State). Each of the P, S and R categories in this Table is broken down further in a set of "menus" in Appendix B.
   STATE of the
 (relationships between
   P,S and/or R) E.g.:
 Sociotechnical Forces:
  population, technology,
  social structure, attitudes
    & practices, policies
 Ambient conditions and
   trends (chemical,
physical, bio/ecological);
   Status of "valued
   attributes" (VEAs)
  Legislation, policies,
 regulations, monitoring,
  enforcement actions,
investments, international
    agreements, etc.
  between levels of
Pressures (Underlying,
  Indirect, & Direct),
or between Pressures
   and Responses
   Human Activities
  (e.g., agriculture, mining,
  manufacturing, transport,
  energy consumption) and
   Natural Processes/
  (volcanic eruptions, etc.)
Ambient conditions and
   trends (see above),
    Status of VEAs
  Compliance, waste
  treatment, mitigation,
   cleanups, process
     redesign, etc.
 Relationships between
   Direct Pressures or
   Societal Responses
    and State of the
 Biophysical Stressors:
    pollutants, resource
    extraction, land use
   change, exotic species
(inc.human communities)
 Ambient conditions and
   trends (see above),
    Status of VEAs
Recycling, conservation,
 contributions to NGOs,
  of Direct Pressures,
  Ecological Changes
     (in State), or
  Societal Responses
                        HUMAN HEALTH &
                          Longevity, morbidity,
                           Value of ecological
                           goods & services,
                          other non-use values
                       Research, NGOs, public-
                       private partnerships, etc.
                       HUMAN WELFARE
                        of Ecological Changes
                            (in State), or
                         Societal Responses

3.3 The Spatial Dimension: Definition of Geographic Units

      Human-environment interactions happen within geographic (spatial) and temporal
contexts.  Although the boundaries for these interactions seem to be growing  increasingly
porous, the spatial boundaries used to define geographic units for environmental monitoring,
assessment and management can have a profound impact on the effectiveness of environmental
management actions.  In the past, the  geographic units used  as  a basis for environmental
protection and management have been defined primarily along administrative  or jurisdictional
      There has been increased recognition in recent years that independent and individually
insignificant human and natural perturbations can result in cumulative environmental (and
social) effects which do not respect administrative boundaries.  As stated before, this has
stimulated a movement toward  "whole  ecosystem management" using natural regions (e.g.,
"ecoregions") in addition to administrative units.10  VEAs, natural stressors, human pressures
and responses, and the interactions among them can vary widely, depending on whether one is
speaking of the Chesapeake Bay, the city of Chicago, or the old growth forests of the Pacific
      A critical  step in developing a geographically-based framework for an information
system involves definition of the management units (e.g., watersheds, ecoregions) for which
monitoring and management priorities among VEAs and pressures should be established. (Note
that management and monitoring priorities need not be the same.) Use of an ecosystem approach
to environmental management also requires an operational definition of an ecosystem, such as:

      an area  whose boundaries  reflect ecological processes and patterns (e.g., community,
      population, biogeochemical, energy transfer, climate, physiography), and which provides
      sufficient  area,  diversity, and complexity for  continued self-organization and
      maintenance in the absence of catastrophic  external disturbances  (modified from
      Slocombe,  1993, and Clark et al, 1991).

      Ideally, the management units used at different scales should be spatially nested so that
values and goals  at local and regional scales can  more readily  be linked  to national and
international goals and concerns. It is beyond the scope of this paper to propose or endorse the
use of particular ecosystem or land classification schemes in organizing an information system.
However, some examples of types of land units used in environmental management in the United
States include  watersheds, Omernik's  (1987) ecoregions, and the "Greater  Yellowstone
Ecosystem" (Clark et al,  1991).   Also, Canada, the Netherlands, and Mexico are  using
hierarchical ecosystem spatial frameworks as a basis for environmental planning, management
and/or reporting (Wiken, 1986; Environment Canada, 1993; Klijn  & Udo de  Haes,  1994;
(SEDESOL, 1993).
      In developing an operational framework for an environmental information system, the
most important elements (VEAs, stressors, etc.) within each of the PSR/E framework categories
should be identified in each management  unit, as will be discussed in the following section.
10     E.g., efforts by EPA, NOAA, Dept. of Interior's Bureau of Land Management, and Dept. of Agriculture's
Forest Service.

IV.    Making the Framework Operational: Setting Priorities
4.1. Policy Goals and Monitoring Priorities

       As discussed previously, existing environmental policy goals should be used to help set
priorities for including data in an environmental information system.  Existing goals alone,
however,  are an insufficient basis for  determining framework priorities for an information
system. Among other things, they address only those environmental values and problems that
society has  previously agreed  to protect or manage.  Generic  policy statements entailing a
discovery process, such as the National Environmental Policy Act's Title I, are an exception. ID
contrast, an environmental information system should address not only those issues about which
a legislative or regulatory consensus for management already exists; rather, such a system should
also focus on  long-term and  emerging environmental issues  as well as more  immediate
regulatory concerns.  Policy goals  are also often vague  about the specific environmental
attributes requiring protection.  Furthermore,  environmental policy goals have primarily been
established on a national basis, or in a fragmented and  uncoordinated manner at subnational

4.2. Refining the Framework: Setting Priorities on a Geographic Basis

       Section HI elaborated the contents of the PSR/E framework and discussed the fact that
the framework can be applied in ecologically defined land areas at various scales. Review and
discussion are necessary to decide whether the basic approach proposed in the previous sections
is acceptable to stakeholders, and to revise it if necessary.  Then, since everything in the menus
cannot be monitored, a process could begin to set priorities among the elements of each menu
provided in the Appendix.  Such a priority setting process would be based on such factors as
existing policy goals  and program needs; assessments of the relative ecological, social and
economic value of VEAs to society; and comparative analyses of risks to VEAs.  Setting these
priorities on a  geographic basis at various (e.g., regional,  global) scales, using ecologically
defined land units, permits the entire array of pressures, VEAs, etc., that are important in a given
area to be considered.

       This priority setting process would allow the comprehensive menus in Appendix B to be
reduced to essential core sets of framework elements for different geographic areas/scales. The
priority setting process would be iterative, requiring collaboration among  the many stakeholders
in an information system, and must build on existing policy goals and monitoring priorities.

       There are a number of possible approaches to setting framework priorities.  Some general
criteria for ranking the importance of VEAs for different areas/scales include: those which are
essential  "life support" functions for the biosphere (e.g., forests  help regulate climate, prevent
soil erosion, provide habitat for animals,  etc.), and VEAs that are particularly unique, rare and/or
valued, or are particularly vulnerable or threatened (e.g., due to cumulative stresses). Regional or
resource-specific conceptual models can help in setting priorities.  EMAP's Resource Groups are
using a variety of conceptual models to identify the components of an ecological resource which
contribute to system "values" (i.e.,  VEAs) such  as biological integrity and ecological
sustainability, to link indicators  to societal values, and to identify expected relationships between
stressors and indicators of ecological condition (EMAP, 1993).

       Some criteria for prioritizing human health endpoints include severity and irreversibility
of effects, high prevalence in the population, and/or strong evidence of environmental linkages.
Note that, in general, people are more willing to accept some  loss of components or functions of

ecosystems than impairment of their own  health.  Also, the parts  of individual organisms,
including people, are much more tightly coupled than the  components of ecosystems.  For
example, people need both functioning circulatory and  nervous systems to  survive, but
ecosystems are generally thought to have quite a bit of functional redundancy.  Thus, human
health-related priorities would be set on the basis of effects on body systems or functions (i.e.,
effects on VEAs) rather than first prioritizing VEAs themselves.

       Some general approaches for prioritizing direct pressures on the environment include
surveys to determine information needs of existing program activities (e.g., EPA Region 2,
1994), as well as use of methods such as comparative risk analysis and cumulative impact
assessment.  For example, the comparative risk approach taken by EPA's Region 6 (1990) in
setting environmental management priorities could, in a modified form, also be used to help set
framework priorities.  The Region 6 analysis ranked risks of various stressor categories to a
number of basic ecological functions (VEAs), using a geographic information system  and
Omernik's (1987) ecoregions as a spatial framework. Evaluation criteria included the severity,
geographic scale and irreversibility of impacts. One limitation of comparative risk analysis is
that it does not readily address cumulative effects of multiple stressors.

       For  human activities  (indirect  pressures),  their  "environmental efficiency"
(environmental pressures produced per unit of value added to the economy or employment
generated) is  an important basis for including sectors  in an environmental information
framework.  Thus, information  about the energy, water and resource use and the pollution-
intensity of different industries is important to consider. Note that due to economic and other
large scale societal linkages, the environmental impacts of economic activities and policies (e.g.,
trade policies) and other underlying societal pressures (e.g., population growth) can cut across
multiple ecological boundaries.  Thus, priorities among economic sectors and other, underlying
societal pressures must take into account administrative as well as ecological boundaries.

       Important criteria for including societal responses in  the framework for an information
system are: responses which address the highest/largest scale environmental risks (e.g., global
climate change), and those which are "upstream" in the causal chain (e.g., reductions in resource
consumption and emissions, compared to cleaning up emissions after the fact), and are thereby
potentially the most effective responses.

       In sum, a variety of prioritization methods  should  be used iteratively to refine the
framework menus. It is important to reiterate that an information system framework is a tool, not
a structure cast in stone.  It would not be immutable,  but would evolve as our understanding of
human-environment  interactions improves  and as society's environmental values evolve. In
particular, it is critical to develop a core set of essential ecological attributes (components and
functions) that need to be monitored at various geographic areas/scales over the long-term.
V.     From Framework to Information System: Selecting Indicators
       and Summarizing Data for Decision-makers
      The prioritization process discussed in the previous section would result in a framework
calling for monitoring in different geographic areas at various scales. In order to use this as the
basis for an operational information system, other steps are needed, including many levels of
data coordination.  A detailed discussion of the technical issues involved in establishing an
information system is beyond the scope of this paper. However, two remaining  topics will be
discussed briefly in this  section.   The  first is a general set of criteria for  selecting the


indicators/data to be included in an information system.  Second, since an information system
should serve not just analysts and technical managers but also policy-makers and the public,
some approaches for summarizing and/or visualizing data for decision-makers will be discussed.

5.1 Indicator/Data Selection Criteria
       As described in previous sections, a framework for an environmental information system
can guide variable or indicator selection and measurement by specifying the VEAs, goals and
concerns that link data collection  efforts to policy and management needs at various  scales.
Beyond that, the specific  policy  or  management questions (e.g.,  about possible impacts of
particular activities on wetlands), endpoints and hypotheses that  a set of indicators should
address must be tailored to meet the needs of individual organizations or programs. That is, they
cannot be specified  as part of a conceptual framework.
       Environmental assessments can utilize either primary data collected specifically for the
purpose for which  they are used,  or  secondary data which were originally collected for other
purposes. When basing assessments  on  existing data, analysts do not have the kind of control
over factors such as data quality that they would if a new data collection effort were undertaken.
In spite of these shortcomings, however, time and resource constraints frequently dictate the use
of existing data. Various assumptions, models, and extrapolations are then applied in an effort to
"adjust" the data so they can be used in  a new assessment context (see, for example, Kineman
1993).  Thus, the  continuing need to use existing data  as  a basis for many environmental
decisions is one of the most important arguments for the development of an integrated system of
environmental information.
       Indicator selection criteria (see Table 4) are a means of summarizing the most important
characteristics that  data collected  in  a monitoring program and/or  used an  assessment should
fulfill. These characteristics  help determine whether the indicators selected for a specific
application can address the desired policy or management questions.  The choice of criteria for a
particular application depends in  part on the intended use(s) of the indicator(s), and some
selection criteria may be mutually exclusive.  Indicator selection criteria are applicable to both
primary data collection efforts and new uses of existing data.
       Some of the most important indicator selection criteria relate to validity (including
sensitivity), feasibility/ cost-effectiveness, and the existence of decision criteria that can help
decision-makers determine when they should  take action (e.g., environmental standards).n
When existing data must be used to generate numeric values for an indicator, additional selection
criteria become important,  including  data availability and  the  existence  of adequate
documentation (metadata) to allow potential users to determine whether a data set can be used
for a specific application.
1!      Indicator interpretability (the existence of decision criteria that distinguish acceptable from unacceptable
condition) is an often under-appreciated selection criterion that is critical if an indicator is to provide a defensible
basis for decision-making. In statistical terms, such decision criteria or benchmarks are an essential part of the
hypotheses that a data collection effort is designed to evaluate. From the policy standpoint, decision criteria are
much more than part of a hypothesis, however, because they are the basis for often controversial decisions, in that
they assume (for example) some level of acceptable environmental damage or human morbidity. Also, because
biological thresholds are rarely known,  such benchmarks or criteria are often based at least in part on other (social,
economic or political) factors.

Table 3. Indicator/Data Selection Criteria 12
Social and environmental relevance: Clear linkage to attributes, values or endpoints of
concern (linkage can be direct or indirect, e.g., through a model).
Appropriateness of scale: Reflects conditions/changes at spatial and temporal scales
appropriate to the environmental issue of concern.
Sensitivity: Has acceptable levels of uncertainty (i.e., signal sufficiently large compared to noise
in data) to allow detection of meaningful differences.
Broad applicability to stressors:  Responds to multiple stressor types (i.e., non-specific;
important for screening level indicators).
Specificity: Responds specifically to  particular stressors (opposite of broad applicability;
important for diagnostic indicators for relating cause and effect).
Representativeness: Representative of behavior of system or other important parameters of
Anticipatory: Provides early warning of undesired changes.
Historical record:  Historical record available to define variability, trends and possibly
acceptable and unacceptable conditions.

Measurability: Measurable by standard method with documented performance and low
measurement error.
Timeliness: Data collection, analysis, and reporting feasible within decision-making
Cost-effectiveness:  Maximizes information per unit effort.
Non-redundance: Provides new information.
Data availability: Appropriate data exist and are accessible for secondary use.
Minimal environmental impact:  of the sampling process itself.

Understandability: Is or can be transformed into form that is understandable by target
Interpretability: Decision criteria can be agreed on which distinguish acceptable from
unacceptable conditions.
Data comparability: Data collection methods (e.g., analytical  methods, sampling design)
comparable with other needed data sets.
Documentation/metadata:  Adequate documentation to determine if data quality is adequate for
intended secondary use.
12     Adapted from: Kelly & Harwell, 1989; IJC, 1991; EPA, 1994a; ITFM, 1994.

        Ultimately, the goal of the indicator selection process is to develop a suite of indicators
 for each element in the P, S and R framework categories, which address the major data
 needs/uses relating  to that element (e.g., assessment of progress toward policy goals, risk
 assessment). 13  For reasons of economy, existing data would be used wherever possible.  If
 existing data cannot be  "redesigned" and its  quality verified for secondary uses, this would
 suggest a need for new data collection.

 5.2 Summarizing Information for Decision-Makers: Data Aggregation and Visualization

        Technical  specialists in  organizations responsible for environmental protection and
 management require detailed information to  provide a sufficient basis  for  quantifying
 environmental status and trends, determining whether conditions constitute problems, diagnosing
 potential causes of problems and their severity, and predicting possible future impacts of human
 activities and environmental change. Policy makers and the public, on the other hand, often have
 the time, interest, or ability to consider only  a few pieces of information before they make
 decisions. Because an information system must serve the needs of a wide variety of users with
 varying degrees of technical expertise, methods and approaches are needed for summarizing
 and/or visualizing environmental information in user-friendly ways.

        One commonly advocated approach for summarizing environmental information for
 decision-makers is through the use of indices, which use some systematic procedure to weight,
 scale and aggregate multiple variables into a single summary output.  Indices can be constructed
 at various levels of detail and spatial scale, depending on the specific purpose of  the index, and
 can be used to summarize data about individual VEAs such as "biological integrity."  For
 example, Karr's Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI) and similar indices are being used increasingly in
 surface water management in the United States (Karr, 1991). The IBI is used to assess the
 condition of fish communities in midwestern streams. Similar indices have also been developed
 using other aquatic taxa and in other regions of the country.  Another commonly used index is
 EPA's air quality index (also known as the Pollution Standards Index or PSI - Hunt et al. 1976),
 which is used to report local air quality to the public on a daily basis.

       Indices can also be constructed for particular environmental issues or "themes," such as
 the environmental policy  performance indices used by the Netherlands to assess progress toward
 national goals relating to global climate change,  eutrophication, acidification, stratospheric ozone
 protection,  etc.  (Adriaanse, 1993).  Each of  the Dutch indices combines  measures of the
 emissions of the  most important pollutants  (pressures)  that  contribute to a particular
 environmental problem, and weights these according to their relative contribution.  For example,
 for global climate change, the index is  expressed  in terms of "CQz equivalents," and is  a
 weighted summation of the Dutch contributions to emissions of greenhouse gases, weighted by
 the "global warming potential" (heat absorption capacity) of the individual gases. A line graph is
 used to depict progress of the index values toward future targets or goals.

       A number of efforts have also been undertaken to develop highly aggregated indices for
 assessing the environmental, social and economic components of sustainable development at a
 national level). *4 Some of these approaches use  dollars as a common measuring unit and seek to
 incorporate  environmental pollution and/or natural resource depletion into national economic
 accounts or  "satellite accounts;" other approaches use a combination of physical and economic
 aggregates.  One example of a highly aggregated index that assesses non-sustainable resource
13      One indicator can sometimes apply to multiple framework elements.

14      See for instance: Daly and Cobb, 1989, Goodland 1993, Pearce and Atkinson 1993, Hamilton and
O'Connor 1994, BEA 1994, SCOPE 1994.


 use in economic terms is an  "index of net resource depletion" generated by the Scientific
 Committee on Problems of the Environment (SCOPE) in a draft report for the United Nations
 Commission  on Sustainable Development.   Quantifying long-term, irreversible losses  of
 ecosystem components or functions in monetary terms and  anticipating the values and
 preferences of future generations is difficult, if not impossible (EVF, 1992). Thus, assessment of
 ecological sustainability will continue to require biophysical as well as economic indicators.15

       Some authors advocate multivariate statistical models as alternatives to weighted average
 indices for determining whether stressed biological communities fall outside normal ranges (e.g,
 Suter, 1993).  Another alternative to data aggregation for making large amounts  of data more
 accessible to managers and policy-makers is data visualization through graphical approaches,
 geographic information systems (GIS)  and maps.16  One  simple graphical alternative for
 reporting ecosystem condition is Nip et al's (1990) "AMOEBA" approach.  It permits visual
 integration of a number of indicators by presenting the indicator values as segments on a pie
 diagram, relative to a circle which represents the policy criteria or standards against which
 observed levels are to be compared. If all indicator values exactly meet the standards, then the
 diagram  looks like a pie with equally shaped wedges.  As more and more individual indicators
 fall short of or exceed  the policy criteria (the circle), the diagram begins to  look increasingly
 amorphous, like an amoeba.  Multi-dimensional bar charts would be an  alternative graphical
 presentation tool with a similar purpose.

       In the future, spatial environmental process models (e.g., of atmospheric, hydrological  or
 ecological processes) may provide policy analysts with more sophisticated decision-support tools
 that are  easier to use than current models.  Outputs from such  models integrated with other
 spatial data using geographic information systems (GIS) are also potentially useful in helping
 decision-makers visualize complex, time-varying spatial interactions in the environment (see K.
 Fedra and others in Goodchild, Parks and Steyaert, 1993).
15      "Early warning" indicators of ecological non-sustainability may actually be more readily recognized, for
example, if some ecological thresholds have already been exceeded. Two potential candidates for such
nonsustainability indicators include stratospheric ozone depletion, and the appropriation of net global primary
production by humans (Vitousek 1986).

16      Indices can also be combined with these approaches.


 VI.    Conclusions
       As EPA moves toward a community-based or ecosystem approach to environmental
protection, the Agency will have an increasing need for geographically integrated data.  This
paper  proposes  a unifying framework for an  environmental information system  which is
consistent with an ecosystem approach to environmental decision-making. Such a framework
would be a useful tool to help integrate environment-related data on a geographic basis, identify
duplication and  gaps in existing data, and help  drive new data collection.  Some of the
characteristics of the framework, building on the  OECD's pressure-state-response model,

(1)    A derivative category called "Effects" is added, for attributed relationships between two
       or more Pressure, State, and/or Response variables, resulting in a "PSR/E" framework.

(2)    Human driving forces of environmental change, and pressures of non-human origin are
       included in the framework. Distinctions are also made in terms of specific sub-categories
       in which the State of the environment can be measured, and the types of entities making

(3)    Each sub-category is elaborated with lists (generic menus) designed to permit
       environmental information collection efforts to be linked to a common set of
       environmental values, goals and priorities.

(4)    The framework is consistent with a hierarchical view of ecosystems, allowing for the
       spatial nesting of environmental information, compatible with community- or ecosystem-
       based approaches to environmental management

(5)    It is compatible with assessment-driven approaches to indicator selection  (e.g., EMAP).

       Implementation of  an integrated ecosystem-based information system would require
extensive collaboration among the stakeholders of the  system.  Some organizations or initiatives
that could provide critical input to such a framework for an information system include: EPA
program offices  and  Regions; the states; the  Environmental  Monitoring and Assessment
Program, EPA's Environmental Goals Project, the Dept of Interior's National Biological Service
and US Geological Survey,  NOAA, and other agencies with  significant environmental
monitoring programs; the Intergovernmental Task Force on Water Quality Monitoring (TTFM),
the President's Council on  Sustainable Development, and  so  on.  Also, the  U.S. is a party to
numerous international environmental agreements that  are relevant

       This process should probably begin with agreement on a basic macro-framework, either a
PSR-type approach or some other model.  Following that, a comprehensive effort should be
made to identify priorities among potential framework elements in different geographic
areas/scales. In particular, there is a need to agree on  essential core sets of ecological attributes
that warrant monitoring, in order to assess the environmental sustainability of human activities.

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            Assessment endpoint: expresses the specific policy question or hypothesis to be evaluated in an
            environmental assessment, and is the basis for indicator selection and measurement. A
            completely defined ecological assessment endpoint specifies the magnitude of the effect on a
            VEA that must be detected, the area that must be affected, the time allowed before effects are
            detected, and the acceptable level of uncertainty (adapted from Suter, 1993).

            Biological integrity:  the ability to support and maintain a balanced, integrated and adaptive
            community of organisms having a species composition, diversity, and functional organization
            comparable to that of natural habitat of the region (from Karr, 1991).  This concept has been
            applied primarily in surface water management. See also "ecological integrity."

            Ecological functions: ecosystem properties that derive from the spatially structured interactions
            among many  processes and the biological and physical/chemical components within a system
            (from Preston & Bedford,  1988).   The  term "ecosystem functions" may also be used
            interchangeably with "ecosystem services" (e.g., Westman 1977).

            Ecological integrity:  A living system exhibits integrity if, when subjected to disturbance, it
            sustains an organizing, self-correcting capability to recover toward an end-state that is normal
            and "good" for that system. End-states other than the  pristine or naturally whole may be taken to
            be "normal and good" (H.A. Regier in Woodley et al., 1993). Another definition (from Karr &
            Angermeier 1994) is as follows: Biological integrity refers to a system's wholeness, including
            presence of  all appropriate elements  and  occurrence of  all processes at appropriate rates.
            Whereas diversity is a collective property of  system elements, integrity is a synthetic property of
            the system. Unlike diversity, which can be  expressed simply as the number of kinds of items,
f            integrity refers to conditions under little or no influence from human actions; a biota with high
|            integrity reflects natural evolutionary and biogeographic processes.

            Ecological sustainability: maintenance of ecosystem components and functions for future

            Ecoregions: regions of relative homogeneity in ecological systems or in relationships between
            organisms and their environments (from Omemik, 1987).
            Ecosystem:  an area whose boundaries reflect ecological  processes  and patterns  (e.g.,
            community, population, biogeochemical, energy transfer,  climate, physiography), and which
            provides sufficient area,  diversity,  and complexity  for continued self-organization and
            maintenance in  the absence of catastrophic external disturbances (modified from Slocombe,
            1993, and Clark et al, 1991).
            Effects: attributed relationships between two  or more pressure, state, and/or societal response

            Environmental  assessment: analysis and interpretation of  environment-related data for use in

            Environmental indicator: a parameter (i.e., a measured or observed property), or some value
            derived from parameters (e.g., via an index or model), which provides managerially significant
            information about patterns  or trends (changes)  in  the  state of the environment, in human
            activities that affect or are  affected by the environment,  or about relationships among such
            variables. As defined here, indicators include geographic (spatially referenced) information, and
            information used in environmental management at any scale, i.e., not just for high-level policy-

Environmental information system: a large array of environment-related data series and other
types of information, collected through networks of monitoring programs at multiple geographic
scales  which are integrated or coordinated at a number of levels.  Such integration or
coordination can include data integration, and coordination at the level of the societal values,
goals and priorities used to structure the system.

Environmental sustainability: long-term maintenance of ecosystem components and functions
for future generations.
Framework: at the  simplest level, a framework provides a means of categorizing information
about a subject. Three important kinds of frameworks for environmental information collection,
analysis and reporting are: models of a decision-making process or strategy, conceptual models
of the "causal flow"  of human-environment interactions, and spatial frameworks, i.e., ecosystem
or land classification systems. These three types of frameworks are complementary and actually
represent three dimensions of the information generation process.

Index: an aggregation of statistics and/or indicators, which summarizes often large quantities of
related information by using some systematic procedure to weight, scale and aggregate multiple
variables into a single summary output.
Pressures: human activities and natural processes,  and the biophysical stressors derived from
these activities and processes, which can contribute to stress on human health and welfare and on
components and functions of ecosystems.
Responses: purposeful human actions to address observed or predicted ecological, human health
or welfare changes or impacts that are considered undesirable; i.e., societal responses.

State  of  the environment: conditions  and  changes in ecosystems, human health  and
environment-related  human welfare, including as a subset the condition of valued environmental
Stressors: any physical, chemical or biological entity  that can induce  an  adverse effect on
ecosystems or human health (adapted from RAF 1992).

Valued environmental attributes: those  aspects (components or  processes/functions) of
ecosystems,  human  health and environmentally related  welfare that are  considered to be
important and potentially at risk from human activities or natural hazards. Similar to the term,
"valued environmental components," used in environmental impact assessment, but explicitly
includes environmental processes as well as human health and welfare.

Appendix A:  Other Schematic Views of PSR Subcategories

                                                                        State of Human Welfare
Basic Socio-
 • Population
 • Technology
 • Social
 • Level of
Human Activities
(By Economic
  • Agriculture
  • Forestry
  • Mining and
  • Energy
  • Energy
  • Manufacturing
  • Transportation
Natural Events
and Forces:
  • Meteorological
  • Volcanic and
   seismic events
Mode of Impact
 • Pollutant
 • Land use
 • Consumption
   of resources
 • Diversion of
 • Introduction of
   exotic species
Chemical State:
  • Level of each chemical in air,
   water, or land
Physical State:
  • Air temperature
  • Water temperature
  • Sea level
  • Number and severity of storms
Biological State:
Ecological State
      • Extent and condition of
      • Condition of particular
       species and groups of species
State of Human Health:
      • Exposure to toxic substances
      • Direct measures of health
The State Of Human Welfare
(For those aspects of welfare
directly affected by the
  • Loss of recreation opportunities
  • Damage to crops
Broad Measures:
  • Expenditures on
   pollution abatement
  • Expenditures on
Specific Measures:
(Number of each specific
kind of action taken for
  • Pollutant of concern
  • Type of source
  • Environmental
  • Exposure pathway

Appendix B:  PSR/E Sub-category Menu Tables
       The following "menus" are an effort to present, in a reasonably comprehensive manner,
the universe of elements (pressures, VEAs, societal responses) within each of the components of
the PSR/E model, based on present scientific knowledge and policy concerns.  We would
appreciate hearing from readers about omissions  or errors in the menu tables.  In many cases
only classes of elements (e.g., "biogeochemical cycling") are defined.  To be useful in helping
set monitoring priorities, ecological VEAs must be operationally defined for specific geographic
areas (e.g., global carbon storage in forests, nitrogen fixation by microorganisms in Midwestern
farmlands). To transform the menus into a working framework, priorities must be established
among defined menu elements at various geographic scales.  Also, some types of menu elements
can potentially be seen as essential core elements of a framework for an information system (e.g.,
regional environmental diversity) and others would Likely be optional.

       In principle, there are a number of possible  ways to organize the State of the Environment
category: by scale, by ecosystem type or degree of  alteration by humans, by issues or VEAs, or
by data/indicator type (physical, chemical,  biological or ecological data).  Some of these
categorizations are complementary. Ecosystems can be defined at many different scales, so
categorizing the State of the Environment by ecosystem types also implies defining the scales of
those ecosystems; this is really the purpose of a spatial framework, discussed in section 3.2.
Categorization by environmental issues/problems and VEAs are closely related, at least
implicitly, in that definition of an environmental issue requires at least an implicit model of the
linkages between some pressures and one or more VEAs.

       The Effects category of the PSR/E model does not require a separate set of menus, as it
represents a category of indicators of relationships  between the elements in the other (P,S, R)

Table P.1    UNDERLYING PRESSURES (Sociotechnical Forces)

   Population Structure and Processes
   Birth & death rates
   Population size; composition by age, gender, ethnic group
   Migration rates; geographic distribution of population

   Social/Cultural Attributes & Practices
   Social/cultural attitudes, beliefs and values (e.g., toward recycling)
   Individual & household behaviors, including voting, recreation, and product purchasing and
       use behavior
   Other demographic variables:
       Distribution of income and wealth
       Household size and composition
       Labor force participation by gender
       Educational levels (especially scientific, environmental education)

   Political Structures and Processes
   Federal, state, local laws and regulations
   Macroeconomic policies
   Sectoral economic policies: e.g., agricultural, energy policies
   Trade policies, e.g., North American Free Trade Agreement
   Foreign aid policies, e.g., population-related policies
   Organization of responsibilities, power relationships within/among federal, state, local
       governments (i.e., other than those captured above)
   Organizational arrangements, power relationships within economic sectors, between business
       and government
   Role of news media
   Roles of voluntary associations
   Land use/land development policies

   Science and Technological Change
   Basic and applied research, technology development with particular environmental
       applications or impacts, including scientific discoveries with potential environmental
   Technology diffusion and displacement, by economic sector of application
   Research and development expenditures by technical area
   Science and engineering education and work force by technical area

Table P.2    INDIRECT PRESSURES (Human Activities, Natural Events/Forces)
   Human Activities, generally by Economic sectors:
   Production & consumption of commodities (goods & services) by industries in value terms
   Consumption of raw materials and intermediate inputs (including water) and production of
       goods and services and waste outputs, in physical terms, by industry on a geographic
   Employment by industry, on a geographic basis
   Commodity prices
   Final consumption of commodities by households
   International trade: imports & exports of processed goods & raw materials
   "Natural" Processes & Factors:
   [Biological] Population fluctuations and migrations
   "Biological" emissions (e.g., methane from termites, wetlands)
   Other climatic fluctuations (e.g., El Nino)

    Table P.3    DIRECT PRESSURES (Biophysical Stressors)
                   -of Human AND Natural Origin
       Releases of Objects, Substances, Organisms, or Energy
       Greenhouse gas emissions, emissions of ozone depleting substances
       Other pollutant17 emissions to ambient air and regional transport of pollutants
       Applications of fertilizer, pesticides, salt; also releases from soil due to irrigation, etc.
       Point source and non-point source discharges of toxic pollutants and nontoxic pollutants (e.g.,
           nutrients, soil) to water
       Pollutant emissions to indoor and workplace air
       Contaminants in products, including food
       Land disposal of nonhazardous, hazardous and radioactive waste
       Chemical accidents, oil spills, leaking underground storage tanks
       Translocation and proliferation of exotic [non-native] species or native "pest" species and
           disease vectors
       Releases of genetically engineered organisms
       Releases of radioactivity
       Releases of heat
       Noise, vibration

       Harvesting and Extraction of Renewable and Nonrenewable Resources is
       Commercial and sport fishing
       Agriculture (crops and livestock)
       Wildlife hunting and trapping, gathering of wild plants
       Groundwater withdrawal/consumption
       Mining/extraction/quarrying of metals, minerals, building materials
       Extraction of petroleum, natural gas and coal
       Ecological damage/ "natural harvest" by pests & predators, storms, fire, etc.

       Land Use Changes
       Construction of human settlements: urbanization, suburbanization (including development on
           beaches and barrier islands)
       Conversion of natural ecosystems for agriculture, silviculture, aquaculture, mining,
           infrastructure (roads & highways, railroads, oil & gas pipelines, airports, power
           transmission lines, canals, dams, coastal waterways, piers, ports, seawalls, harbor
           dredging, etc.)
       Diversion/channelization of river flows and construction of water resource projects
       Various recreational land uses (other than hunting or fishing): camping,  hiking, boating,
           swimming, use of off-road vehicles, etc.
       Changes in land cover use due to fire, flooding, etc
17     "Pollutant releases" here refers to releases of substances of human or natural (e.g., radon) origin that are
considered undesirable by society.

18      Harvesting and extraction activities remove natural resources, rather than adding primary "stress agents"
(e.g., pollutants, exotic species or highways) to the environment, though they also produce secondary stress agents,
e.g., pollution due to mining activities.

   Table S.1    STATE of the environment - the GLOBAL Ecosystem 19

       Valued Environmental Attributes (VEAs)
       Stability of Global climate: atmospheric composition, temperature, precipitation patterns,
           storms, droughts, ocean currents
       Integrity of the stratospheric ozone layer
       Global scale genetic and species diversity
       Global environmental diversrty20
       Biogeochemical cycling (and storage) of carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus and other elements
       Energy fixation/primary productivity
       Topsoil quantity and quality
       Management of species migration
       Environmental Conditions and Changes of Human and Natural Origin
       Atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases; ozone depleting substances
       Global temperature
       Global habitat alteration and destruction, including deforestation
       Global levels of soil erosion/degradation
       Globally transported pollutants in air or water, e.g. to polar regions
       Global changes in species occurrence and distribution
       Proliferation of introduced (non-native) species
19     Global scale VEAs can include systems or properties that operate/emerge at a global scale (such as the
stratospheric ozone layer), as well as VEAs which function at smaller scales as well (e.g., species diversity), but
which have been sufficiently affected by cumulative human change that they must be monitored globally. Note that
global and regional scale systems and changes tend to operate over longer time scales than local phenomena. Thus
global and regional environmental change must be monitored and predicted over longer (intergenerational) time

20     Environmental diversity encompasses ecosystem, habitat, community and landscape type diversity,
including extent and spatial pattern.

Table S.2    STATE of the environment- REGIONAL Ecosystems

   Valued Environmental Attributes (VEAs)
   Regional genetic diversity, species diversity
   Regional environmental diversity (i.e., types of habitat)
   Biological integrity/health (e.g., KBIT'S Index of Biotic Integrity)
   Primary productivity/energy fixation
   Productive capacity of land for agriculture, forestry;  soil quantity and "quality" (e.g., diversity
       of soil biota)
   Air quality
   Water quality
   Productivity of valued plant or animal species
   Stocks of nonrenewable resources: minerals, metals, fossil fuels, etc.
   Hydrotogic functions of landscapes: Flood regulation; Ground water recharge; Water supply;
       Water filtration; River flows to support aquatic species, irrigation, recreation, transport,
   Geomorphological functions of landscapes:
       Wind and wave buffering; Erosion control; Sediment retention
   Stability of  regional climate: precipitation, temperature, humidity, storms, etc.
   Contaminant/pollutant detoxification, dilution, storage by media (including air, water, soil and
       sediments) and biota
   Biogeochemical cycling, including eutrophication
   Discrete landscape features valued for aesthetic, cultural, spiritual reasons: particular
       mountains, waterfalls, etc.
   Habitat for wildlife, including migratory corridors
   Natural pest control
   Wilderness, open space

   Conditions and Changes of Human and Natural Origin
   Winds, ocean currents
   Precipitation, flooding, droughts
   Regional temperatures, humidity
   Hurricanes, tornadoes, dust storms, other extreme weather events
   Solar radiation; cloud cover
   Gfaciation, sea ice
   Sea level
   Landform geology; erosion, sedimentation, land slides & land subsidence, earthquakes,
      volcanic eruptions, Soil types
   Drainage basins; changes in river flows; groundwater depletion
   Soil erosion, compaction, salinization, and other degradation
   Import/export of soil, nutrients, etc. to/from ecosystems; various nonpoint source pollution
   Regional ambient levels of pollutants in media; long range transport of pollutants in air, water
   Forest & grass fires
   Ecosystem  types, land cover/land use types  (extent and spatial pattern)
   Distribution of native species and communities; species loss, changes in species range
   Feeding areas, habitats, migration routes of wildlife
   Regional habitat destruction, fragmentation; succession/retrogression
   Distribution, proliferation of exotic species, less desired native species, pests, disease vectors

    Table S.3    STATE of the environment - LOCAL Ecosystems 21
       Valued Environmental Attributes (VEAs)
       Safe drinking water (quantity and quantity)
       Maintenance of hydrological & geomorphologica! functions (see regional menu)
       Food safety (freedom from contaminants, undesired organisms)
       Air quality (visibility, outdoor, indoor, workplace)
       Pleasant climate (e.g., temperature, precipitation)
       Tree cover
       Natural control of "pest" and exotic (non-native) species
       Nutrient flows/cycles
       Productivity of commercially, recreatfonally valued species
       Local biodiversity and "biotic integrity;" healthy populations of local "keystone" and other
           desired species
       Local environmental diversity
       Proximity of homes to jobs, shopping, schools, parks, civic facilities
       Access to local and regional transport (roads, public transport); safe routes for non-motorized
           traffic (sidewalks, bike paths)
       Land availability for various uses: residential & commercial construction, agriculture,
           transportation corridors, parks, etc.
       Utilities (electricity, communications networks, etc)
       Sanitation (disposal, treatment, recycling options)
       Recreationally, aesthetically valued locations/sites/vista
       Other aesthetically and culturally valued attributes:
           Quiet                                                                    *
           Absence of noxious odors
           Cultural and historical sites and districts

       Conditions and Changes of Human and Natural Origin
       Quantity & distribution of land & water suitable for various human uses
       Local climate
       Pollutant levels, proliferation of disease vectors in air, water, soil, food
       Proliferation of unwanted exotic species, less desired native species
       Local habitat alteration/fragmentation, destruction
       Trophic structure and functioning of ecosystems, including energy transfer, nutrient flows, etc.
       Biological community structure: species diversity, niche structure, etc.
       Condition of key species (individuals & populations), body burdens of chemicals; population
           size & dynamics
       Extent and distribution of paved surfaces, etc.
21      The local scale includes valued environmental attributes of human communities. Note that the state of
VEAs of concern at the local level can also be monitored regionally or even globally.

       Human Health and Health-related Economic Welfare:
       Longevity (i.e., avoidance of premature death)
       Appropriate physiological function of body systems (i.e., avoidance of morbidity for each of
           the following systems):
           reproductive systems, etc.
       Psychological health (i.e., avoidance of unnecessary environmental stress)

       Health-related economic/welfare values:
           adequate income,
           time for family, work, & leisure

       Value of Marketed Environmental Goods ;22
       Crops, livestock, timber, fish, shellfish, fur-bearing animals, other species valued for use as
           food, pets, etc.
       Non-animal commercial inputs (chemicals, fertilizer, peat, metals, minerals)
       Fossil fuels
       Livestock forage
       Water supply for: domestic consumption,, agriculture, energy production,
           industrial/commercial uses, waste disposal.
       Land and water use for human settlements, transport (e.g..navigation channels), etc.

       Other Use Values:
       Recreation and tourism: camping, hiking, boating, swimming.sightseeing, photography,
           fishing, hunting, meditation, etc.
       Other aesthetic values (e.g., scenic views in residential areas)
       Scientific and research value

       Non-use Values:
       Existence value
       Historical, cultural, heritage & spiritual value
       Bequest value
       Intrinsic value
       Scarcity/uniqueness value

       Value of Ecosystem Services, marketed or not (See S.1, S.2, S.3):
22     In contrast to the VEAs in the other Tables, which address biophysical attributes of ecosystems and human
health, welfare addresses the social and economic value to humans of biophysical changes in ecosystems and human

Table R.1    Societal RESPONSES - GOVERNMENT Actions & Policies
   Federal, State and Local Government Responses:
   Establishment of national, state and local environmental institutions, agencies and programs
       (e.g., creation of a Department of the Environment)
   Integration of environmental policies into existing (e.g., sectoral) policies and institutional
       structures in all branches of government
   Development of national environmental plans, strategies and goals
   Information collection and analysis: e.g., government funded research and development,
       environmental monitoring and risk assessment, environmental accounting, environmental
       impact assessments, benefit/cost analysis
   Information transfer and education: state of the environment reporting, environmental
       education, eco-labelling
   Funding of public and private sector programs, projects and organizations (e.g., family
       planning programs, ecological research and conservation, R&D in cleaner technologies)
   Implementation and enforcement of environmental regulations
   Implementation of economic incentives (includes removing economic disincentives, e.g.,
       subsidies for grazing, mining, logging on federal lands)
   Pollution prevention, resource conservation by government facilities
   Establishment of parks and protected areas
   Land use planning by state and local governments
   Environmental cleanup, ecological conservation and restoration on government land
   Legislative actions not captured elsewhere

Table R.2   Societal RESPONSES - PRIVATE SECTOR Activities
    Environmentally related research and development, e.g., development of CFC substitutes,
       drought-resistant crop varieties
    Information collection and analysis, e.g., environmental auditing/life cycle analysis of
       products, environmental impact assessments
    Information transfer and education: e.g., public disclosure of environmentally related data and
       information, environmentally responsible advertising
    Voluntary, mandatory or incentive-based pollution prevention and resource conservation
       efforts (e.g., redesign of industrial processes to decrease resource inputs & waste
       outputs; designing more durable, energy efficient, less polluting products)
    Internalization of environmental costs in product prices
    Environmentally sensitive land use planning in development of new facilities
    Waste treatment and disposal
    Environmental cleanup and ecological restoration
   Voluntary, mandatory and incentive-based pollution prevention and resource conservation by
       households (e.g., having smaller families, "green" product purchasing & product use
       behavior, reducing energy consumption)
   Backyard, neighborhood ecological conservation and restoration efforts (e.g., landscaping
       with native plants)
   Environmentally aware recreation behavior
   Membership and participation in ad hoc environmental activities (e.g., voluntary beach
       cleanups) and NGOs (see below)
   Voting, lobbying for "green" candidates and causes
   Environmentally related philanthropy

    Environmentally related research and teaching in schools and universities
    Partnerships between NGOs, businesses and/or government to reduce wastes, conserve/
       restore resources, improve management practices (e.g., in wastewater treatment, energy
       conservation, forestry & fisheries)
    Regional land use/ growth management/water resources planning commissions
    Multilateral and bilateral international agreements: legally binding treaties, non-binding
       declarations and action plans
    International organizations with environmental responsibilities (e.g., Organization for
       Economic Cooperation and Development)
    Government advisory bodies, e.g., the President's Council on Sustainable Development,
       National Advisory Committee on Environmental Policy and Technology
    Information collection and analysis (e.g., environmental monitoring and risk assessment)
    Information transfer and education (e.g., environmental education, family planning education,
       state of the environment reporting)
    Lobbying, litigation and less formal means of influencing government policy
    Land acquisition/ecological conservation and other direct action