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Essential Variables

For the identification of essential variable, we take two different perspectives:

  1. What are the essential variables of bioregion healthiness?
  2. What are the signs of collapse or impending collapse?

It is not yet clear what the relationship between these two sets of essential variables will be, but it is seems necessary to be thinking about both sets.

Essential Variables

For an initial brainstorm list of possibly essential variables, we have here:

  • Land Use
    • Domesticated land area, i.e. land area transformed by human activities
    • Wild land area, i.e. land NOT transformed by human activities and land areas that were clear-cut or mined but that are now being allowed to revert to wild areas.
    • Areas in danger of transitioning into deserts.
  • Animal Mass
    • Humans: total population times average mass of a human
    • Domestic animals: the sum of (populations times average mass)
    • Wild animals (including insect, earthworms, etc.). This will be an estimate based on samples of the various species.
  • Soil health
    • Topsoil depth
    • Earthworms per cubic meter
    • Toxins in the soil?
    • Acreage in factory farms (monoculture). The assumptions here include: 1) erosion rate, i.e. rate of loss of soil, 2) vulnerability to disease and outbreaks of insects
    • Acreage in organic farming, regenerative farming and permaculture (the assumption here is that these are similar and beneficial practices)
  • Atmosphere health
    • Temperature variations from pre-industrial levels
    • Greenhouse gases (especially CO2 and methane. If feasible develop one measure of impact on global warming for the two of them together).
    • Particulate air Pollutants (key factors here is impact on health of humans and other species)
    • Non-Particulate Air Pollutants (e.g, acid rain, ??)
    • Extreme weather (droughts, hurricanes, tornadoes, changes in monsoons or other changes from normal rainfall patterns that interfere with farming).
  • Ocean Health
    • Acidity or CO2 content
    • Temperature compared to pre-industrial level
    • Plastic particles concentration or total load
    • Slowing of major currents OR change in the drivers of ocean currents (e.g., the Antartica ice sheets)
    • Fish populations, especially those that provide food for humans
    • Dead zone extent or rate of spread of dead zones
    • Spread of jellyfish, plankton blooms, or other excessive concentrations of undesirable species
  • Estuary health
    (The following are the indicators the Chesapeake Bay foundation uses. This list is perhaps a good starting point for thinking about any estuary, with the proviso that the particular fish and shellfish species will obviously vary for different regions of the world)
    • Nitrogen
    • Phosphorus
    • Dissolved Oxygen
    • Water Clarity
    • Toxics
    • Forest Buffers (tree beside streams)
    • Wetlands
    • Underwater Grasses
    • Resource lands (farmlands, forests, natural open areas)
    • Rockfish
    • Blue Crabs
    • Oysters
    • Shad
  • Biodiversity
    • Rate of species extinctions
    • Insect populations
  • Water (continental)
    • Rainfall variation from pre-industrial patterns
    • Mountain snowpack
    • Glaciers
    • Aquifer levels
    • Droughts
    • Volume of river flow at the mouth
    • Toxins/Pollution in rivers and lakes
    • Fish populations (lakes and streams)
    • Freshwater ecosystem health indicator

Your Comments and Questions

Please, send us your comments you might have on the essential variables discussed here. Let us know if you have any questions.

Your Comments and Questions



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Whatever selection is made for essential variables, it seems critical to get cover the main flows:

  • The Water Cycle
  • The Oxygen Cycle
  • The Carbon Cycle
  • The Nitrogen Cycle
  • The Phosporous Cycle
  • Pollutants

Signs of Collapse

Read about our thoughts on the signs of collapse ...