Applied Ecosystem Services, LLC

The Environmental Issues Doctor

  1. Natural vs man-made water bodies

    Project objectors claim that mining and energy projects cannot create “real” streams and lakes during reclamation. Regulators ask operators to respond, and too often responses are inconclusive. Delays, litigation, or expensive efforts that inadequately address those concerns can follow. Non-ecologists might accept claims of adverse environmental impacts by man-made streams and lakes. However, when complete ecosystems are correctly characterized and classified the dynamics of natural and man-made water bodies are indistinguishable.
  2. Organisms and their habitats

    Understanding relationships between organisms and their habitats is important to operators and regulators, as well as being critical to managing species with low population levels. Pacific salmon in the Columbia River system and sage grouse and Lahontan cutthroat trout in the Great Basin are among many examples where understanding the factors limiting the presence or number of individuals in a defined area need to be quantified in a technically sound and legally defensible way.
  3. Profiting from environmental data

    Across the western US drought, wildland fires, cheatgrass, Western juniper, Lahontan cutthroat trout, bull trout, salmon, bald eagles, desert tortoise, and sage grouse all affect where and how natural resource companies operate. Project planning and approvals can be greatly facilitated by application of advanced statistical and spatial models to environmental data. Causal relationships between explanatory variables such as habitat, food, and predators to response variables (species numbers and distributions) are explained by linear regression models.
  4. Reference areas

    Natural ecosystems are complex and highly variable at multiple size scales. Because of the difficulties of accurately summarizing complexity and variability in an index number, regulators often require a reference area for comparison with a proposed or reclaimed project area. Agreement on a suitable reference area may be a requirement prior to permitting or bond-release decisions for mining and logging operations. It is common for selection of an acceptable reference area to take a long time.
  5. Riparian zones

    Ecologists have determined that landscape edges—boundaries separating one type from another—have higher biological diversity and productivity than do the areas on either side of them. These transition zones are important to animals: mammals, birds, reptiles, insects, and fish. In terrestrial ecosystems edges are found between woodlands and grasslands and between forests and meadows. In aquatic ecosystems the edges are stream and river banks and pond and lake shores; the edges separating aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems are called riparian zones.
  6. Species and their habitats

    There are many animal species whose population numbers bring them to the attention of resource agencies and others; e.g., Greater sage-grouse, Oregon spotted frog, Lahontan cutthroat trout. Some of these species are listed under the ESA, others are not; in both cases accurate estimates of population size and limiting factors are critical for informed policy and management decisions. Correctly measuring population size and the factors affecting it is not always obvious because of the data formats and mathematical formulation of the statistical models.
  7. Photo of The Fate of Biological Data: Too Little Information

    The Fate of Biological Data


    Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

    It is widely accepted that raw data need to be converted to information (commonly by statistical analyses) and the results interpreted to form knowledge before informed decisions can be made. With biological data this process is not followed as frequently as it should. Modern spatial analyses and statistical models can provide valuable and useful information that is otherwise lost. Biological data are counts, presence/absence, proportions, and frequencies. They are not continuous variables with a true zero so the familiar parametric statistics cannot be used.
  8. Water Improvement Projects

    Water quality matters for humans, livestock, fish and wildlife, and plants including food crops. Too often policies and regulations are ineffective while restoration projects fail to achieve intended goals. The problem is seen in environmental impact assessments, point- and nonpoint-source discharges, and Superfund sites. While some reasons for failure are project-specific, three common and easily avoided reasons are the lack of knowledge about spatial and temporal distribution of the chemical of concern, no information about the causes and amount of variability, and the focus on concentrations at a local point rather than on the entire ecosystem.

Providing essential environmental services since 1993.