Ecological indices behaving badly

What makes a good index?

Indices are everywhere. For example, the UV index identifies times of day with dangerously high UV levels, and correlates with the amount of damaging incident UV radiation. The consumer price index indicates the average price increase of Australian retail goods and services. These and other indices have important roles in public policy, and frequently influence how we behave.

Ecological indices are pretty common, too. They are used for environmental monitoring, setting management priorities, and evaluating management actions. These roles mean that ecological indices are fundamental to a wide range of our activities in CEED and NERP. They also abound in basic ecology (see Table 1). However, while some ecological indices are very helpful, others are built and used in dubious ways. Let me explain with an example…






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