Biodiversity Science ›› 2019, Vol. 27 ›› Issue (1): 104-113.doi: 10.17520/biods.2018142

• Review • Previous Article     Next Article

Summary comments on assessment methods of ecosystem integrity for national parks

Dai Yunchuan1, 2, Xue Yadong1, 2, Zhang Yunyi3, Li Diqiang1, 2, *()   

  1. 1 Institute of Forest Ecology, Environment and Protection, Chinese Academy of Forestry, Beijing 100091
    2 Key Laboratory of Biodiversity Conservation, State Forestry and Grassland Administration, Beijing 100091
    3 Department of Wildlife Conservation and Nature Reserve Management, State Forestry and Grassland Administration, Beijing 100084
  • Received:2018-05-15 Accepted:2018-08-20 Online:2018-09-06
  • Li Diqiang

National parks are one of the foundations of global biodiversity conservation and help protect the ecological environment and biodiversity. Assessing ecosystem integrity in national parks can help understand ecosystem balance, health, and biodiversity status. We introduce three methods to assess ecosystem integrity of national parks: IBI (Index of Biotic Integrity), TLA (Three Level Approach) and EIAF (Ecosystem Integrity Assessment Framework), respectively. IBI relies on high intensity field survey and laboratory analysis. Albeit expensive, time consuming and requiring high level of biological expertise in identifying species, the results are accurate and reliable. TLA, including Remote Assessment, Rapid Assessment and Intensive Assessment, offers great flexibility to assess the integrity of complex ecosystems. EIAF combines the advantages of IBI and TLA, expands the use of indicator species and optimizes scoring statistics. Hence, EIAF is one the most sophisticated assessment methods of ecosystem integrity for national parks. We also discuss some issues such as incomplete assessment indices, single assessment form and subjectivity of assessment methods in current studies. We propose that research on ecosystem integrity of national parks should combine the processes that join nature, economy and society. Such an interdisciplinary approach requires integrated research on sustainable socio-economic development and human health, and explore the relationship between invasive species and ecological environment. We also suggest the need to look for new indicator species that can reflect the state and change trend of ecosystem integrity and thus help develop a standardized assessment system for national parks.

Key words: national park, ecosystem integrity, biodiversity, assessment, index

Table 1

Definitions of ecosystem integrity from different scales"

尺度 Scale 定义 Definition 参考文献 Reference
生态系统完整性是支撑和维持生物群落平衡、完整以及适应的能力, 并且这个生物群落与所处的自然生境一样, 具备物种构成、物种多样性以及功能组织等特点。
Ecosystem integrity is the capability of supporting and maintaining a balanced, integrated, adaptive community of organisms having a species composition and functional organization comparable to that of the natural habitat of the region.
Karr & Dudley, 1981; Karr, 1981
Dominant species
当原生物种成为优势种并主宰整个生物群落时, 生态系统将表现出相对稳定和健康, 即为生态系统完整性。
When native species become dominant species and dominate the entire community, the ecosystem exhibits relative stability and health, namely ecosystem integrity.
Noss, 1990
生态系统完整性是生态系统在特定地理区域的最优化状态, 在这种状态下, 生态系统具备区域自然生境所应包含的全部本土生物多样性和生态学过程, 其生态系统结构、功能以及过程不受人类威胁和损害, 生态系统均在自然变化范围之内并保持良性循环, 且本地物种处在能够持续繁衍的种群水平上。
Ecosystem integrity is defined as a state of ecosystem development that is optimized for its geographic location. In this state, the ecosystem with regional natural habitats contains all native biodiversity and ecological process, its ecosystem structure, function and process are not subject to human threat or damage, ecosystem in the range of natural changes and maintain a virtuous circle, and native species are present at viable population levels.
Woodley, 1993
当一个生态系统在不受人类干预的条件下能够继续维持正常的生态功能, 即使当环境遭受人类干扰时, 其生态系统照常能够维持自组织和稳定的状态, 并有足够的能力来继续自组织的发展, 这种自组织能力就叫生态系统完整性。
Under the condition without the intervention of human, the ecosystem can continue to maintain the normal ecological function, even when the environment is disturbed by human, the ecosystem is still able to maintain its self-organization and stable state, and it has enough ability to continue the development of self-organization, this kind of self-organization ability is called ecosystem integrity.
Müller, 1998
Natural quality
当一个生态系统具备与自然区域相同的属性特征, 包括丰富的原生物种和丰富的生物群落构成, 即为生态系统完整性。
When an ecosystem has the same attribute characteristics as the natural region, it includes the rich native species and the composition of the biological community, namely ecosystem integrity.
Parks Canada Agency, 2005

Table 2

Summary of indices for ecosystem integrity assessment of national parks (Timko & Satterfield, 2008; Timko & Innes, 2009; Caniani, 2016; Brown & Williams, 2016; Troy & Yolanda, 2017)"

组成 Composition 备选指标 Standby indices 备选亚指标 Standby sub-indices
Landscape context
Landscape structure
Landscape connectivity, land use index, buffer index, spatial heterogeneity, patch size, shape and distribution, and fragmentation.
Landscape condition
Land use intensity, land use type, and vegetation coverage.
Biological condition
Ecosystem and zones
Community range, community composition, community dynamics, nutrition structure, physical structure.
Species distribution, population dynamics, population structure, species richness, native species, alien species, morphological variability, genetic diversity, and habitat suitability.
Population dynamic measurement
The mortality, birth rate, and population viability of indicator species.
The frequency and degree of natural disaster interference, and the distribution of vegetation age group.
Organic condition
Physical condition, disease symptoms, and signs of illness.
Physiochemical properties
Air quality and climatic
Basic climatic data, and extreme climate occurrence frequency.
Soil quality
Biological crust, soil erosion, soil degradation, and soil pollution.
Water quality
Water temperature, turbidity, pH, electrical conductivity, dissolved solids, suspended solids, total nitrogen, total organic carbon, dissolved oxygen, biochemical oxygen demand, chemical oxygen demand, total bacterial count, and coliform.
Soil fertility determination
Content of nitrogen, phosphorus, calcium and other nutrients.
Inorganic and
organic chemistry
Content of metals, organic compounds and other trace elements.
Chemical parameters
pH value, salinity value, dissolved oxygen, and content of organic matter.
Energy flow
Primary production, net ecosystem production, and growth rate.
Material flow and
organic carbon cycle
Nitrogen and phosphorus cycle, and other nutrient cycle.
Surface runoff,
underground runoff
Surface runoff model, underground runoff model, hydrodynamics, salt characteristics, and water storage capacity.
Dynamic structural feature
Channel or coast line features, the distribution area and range of flood plain, and aquatic habitat characteristics.
Sediment and material transport
Sediment supply, sediment movement, the distribution characteristics of particle size, and other material flux.
Natural disturbance
Frequency, intensity, duration
Fire, insects, floods, and pathogens.

Table 3

Differences of each level of Three Level Approach to conduct ecosystem integrity assessment (Stevens & Olsen, 1999; Blocksom et al, 2002; USEPA, 2006; Michael et al, 2011)"

远程型评价 Remote assessment 快速型评价 Rapid assessment 密集型评价 Intensive assessment
Using Geographical Information System (GIS) and the remote sensing data.
Using relatively simple and easily obtained field survey indicators
Using relatively detailed and quantifiable field survey indicators
Data sources
Remote sensing data
Field survey indicators
Field survey indicators
Landscape index, land cover, land use change, road network density, number of dams, distribution area of dams, area proportion of impervious surface, etc.
Landscape connectivity, intersection number, vegetation structure, alien species invasion, forest surface condition, hydrology, soil, ditch, pollution source input, etc.
Landscape connectivity, quality index of flora, vegetation index of biological integrity, vegetation structure, hydrology, ratio of soil calcium and aluminum, etc.
Identifying priority protection area, analyzing the current situation and development trend of landscape ecological type, monitoring the restoration of target ecosystem, etc.
Improving the ecosystem integrity score report, monitoring or managing the implementation of ecological restoration project, providing guidance for watershed landscape planning, providing reference for ecological conservation, etc.
Detailed field measurement and statistical sampling design can improve the accuracy of ecosystem integrity evaluation. Improving the ecosystem integrity score report, monitoring or managing the implementation situation of the ecological restoration project, etc.
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