Science Focus Topic 7 Notes: Environmental Monitoring | Print |
Ecosystem monitoring (also called - environmental monitoring) is a way to check the condition - health - of an ecosystem by comparing results of investigations done at different times. Monitoring helps scientists understand impacts of disturbances and changes - sudden and gradual - in order to try to reverse or reduce the impact. Biotic and abiotic factors are monitored.

Ecosystem Monitoring Types

Physical, uses satellites to track changes in the landscape over time.

Environmental tracks changes in climate, temperature and weather patterns.

Chemical, assesses the quality of air, soil and water

Biological, tracks the changes in organisms or populations of organisms

When Do We Monitor?

Environmental monitoring usually begins after a disturbance has taken place. It can also begin before a disturbance occurs. A key part of the monitoring program is to provide the evidence on which environmental decisions can be made to maintain the balance between human needs and the needs of other organisms in the environment. Continuous monitoring gives us the scientific data we need to make informed decisions about how we affect the environment over time.

Long-Term Monitoring Programs

Amphibians are very sensitive to environmental change, which makes them an indicator species. By using this indicator species, scientists all over the word can study the effects of pesticides, acid rain, loss of habitat and introduction of non-native species on these amphibians.

Monitoring programs may be qualitative, semi-quantitative, or quantitative. Monitoring involves the use of indicators, indicator species or indicator communities. The presence or absence of the indicator or of an indicator species or indicator community reflects environmental conditions.

Dichotomous Key
(Identification Key for Alberta Amphibians) sf p. 73

Baseline Data
gives scientists a starting point to compare changes in the environment. Scientists to monitor change use permanent plots, or study areas. The report that provides the data that has been collected - identifying how a certain activity will affect the environment - is called an Environmental Impact Assessment.

Quadrant Sampling
is a technique used to study a large are. The quadrant is selected and the species is counted in the quadrant. The number of quadrants in the area provides the multiplier to estimate the population of the species in the area. (see - sf p. 76-77)

Using Science in Real Ecosystems

North River Basins Study (1991) was designed to see what impact the development of natural resources would have on the ecosystems in the region. The analysis of the results indicated that industries were having a negative impact.