All organisms alter their surroundings, and humans now have the ability to affect environments at increasingly larger temporal and spatial scales. Indeed, mechanical and engineering advances of the twentieth century greatly enhanced the scale of human activities. Among these are the use and redistribution of natural resources. Unfortunately, these activities can have unexpected and unintended consequences. Environmental systems often respond to these activities with diminished or lost capacity of natural function. Fortunately, environmental management can play an important role in ameliorating these negative effects. The aim is to promote sustainable development, i.e., enrichment of the lives of the majority of people without seriously degrading the diversity and richness of the environment. However, the management tools themselves often fall prey to the same narrow levels of perspective that generated the negative conditions. The challenge is to develop a system-level index, one that indicates the organization and direction of ecological system dynamics. This index could detect when the system is changing its configuration to a new, perhaps less desirable, dynamic regime and may be incorporated into a sustainable management plan for the system. In this chapter, we demonstrate the use of Fisher information (FI) as such an environmental system index.
Computer Science ; Information Systems Applications (Incl.Internet) ; Models and Principles ; Data Structures, Cryptology and Information Theory ; Pattern Recognition ; Computer Appl. in Social and Behavioral Sciences ; Probability and Statistics in Computer Science ; Engineering ; Computer Science