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Decision making with environmental indices

January 1, 2005

Since Ott's seminal book on environmental indices (1978), the use of indices has expanded into several natural resource disciplines, including ecological studies, environmental policymaking, and agricultural economics. However, despite their increasing use in natural resource disciplines, researchers and public decision makers continue to express concern about validity of these instruments to capture and communicate multidimensional, and sometimes disparate, characteristics of research data and stakeholder interests. Our purpose is to demonstrate how useful indices can be for communicating environmental information to decision makers. We discuss how environmental indices have evolved over four stages: 1) simple; 2) compound multicriteria; 3) the impact matrix and 4) disparate stakeholder management. We provide examples of simple and compound indices that were used by policy decision makers. We then build a framework, called an Impact Matrix (IM), that comprehensively accounts for multiple indices but lets the user decide how to integrate them. The IM was shaped from the concept of a financial risk payoff matrix and applied to ecosystem risk. While the IM offers flexibility, it does not address stakeholder preferences about which index to use. Therefore, the last phase in our evolutionary ladder includes stakeholder indices to specifically address disparate stakeholder preferences. Finally, we assert that an environmental index has the potential to increase resource efficiency, since the number of decision making resources may be reduced, and hence improve upon resource productivity

Publication Year 2005
Title Decision making with environmental indices
Authors Dana L. Hoag, James C. Ascough, C. Keske-Handley, Lynne Koontz
Publication Type Book Chapter
Publication Subtype Book Chapter
Index ID 87288
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Fort Collins Science Center