Summer 2000: Indicators

In every edition of the UPDATE, we report on efforts to protect and restore Long Island Sound. It is important for us to assess, on an ongoing basis, just how effective these efforts have been. Is the water cleaner and safer to swim in? Are contaminant concentrations decreasing? Are habitats being protected and restored? Are the fish and shellfish more abundant (and safe to eat)? Just what is the state of the ecological resources of Long Island Sound? Under a new initiative, the Long Island Sound Study is working to develop indicators of the health of the Sound to answer these kinds of questions.

Everyone is familiar with the use of indicators. Inflation, unemployment rates, factory orders, new home construction, consumer spending, the gross domestic product- these are a few of the indicators that economists use to gauge the health of the economy and to guide management of it. We wouldn’t think of trying to manage the economy without having this kind of publicly accessible and easily understood data on the economy’s performance. We need a similarly developed set of indicators to gauge the health of Long Island Sound (which is at least as complex as the economy). The concept, borrowed from industry quality improvement initiatives, is that you can’t improve what you don’t measure.

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