Conference PaperPDF Available

e-­EcosysPlatform: Using Technology to enhance Ecosystems Stewardship



The purpose of this paper is to design a conceptual model that combines technology and environmental services through stewardship for ecosystem sustainability. The paper is aimed at creating an ecosystem platform (e-EcosysPlatform) that integrates the various components (knowledge, action strategies, and sustainable approaches) of stewardship with the ultimate goal of improving ecosystem health. The combination of technology with stewardship approaches shows a promising approach to solving the basic ecosystem challenges faced in most part of the world. The design idea can be extended for the development of many applications which can help ensure a healthy ecosystem. The proposed design model demonstrates a new idea towards providing stewardship of the ecosystem through information technology.
The purpose of this paper is to design a conceptual model that combines technology and
environmental services through stewardship for ecosystem sustainability. The paper is aimed at
creating an ecosystem platform (e-EcosysPlatform) that integrates the various components
(knowledge, action strategies, and sustainable approaches) of stewardship with the ultimate goal of
improving ecosystem health. The combination of technology with stewardship approaches shows a
promising approach to solving the basic ecosystem challenges faced in most part of the world. The
design idea can be extended for the development of many applications which can help ensure a
healthy ecosystem. The proposed design model demonstrates a new idea towards providing
stewardship of the ecosystem through information technology.
1.( Introduction(
The ecosystem serves as a community for all living things (plants, animals, and organisms) that
interacts with the physical environment and the non-living things (i.e., the weather, earth, the sun,
soil, climate, atmosphere). In recent decades’ mankind's reliance on the ecosystem has raised
several management and intervention strategies such as laws, regulations, and enforcement
schemes, partnerships, and collaborations; the sharing of information and knowledge; and public
and private action [1, 2]. Apart from these management and intervention strategies, researchers
have focused on new ways to improve the ecosystem by identifying appropriate environmental
variables for policy and management for understanding the benefits provided by the environment.
These benefits obtain from ecosystems are classified into provisioning services (e.g., food, water),
regulatory services (e.g., regulation of floods and land degradation), support services (e.g., soil
formation and nutrient cycling), and cultural services (e.g., recreational and religious benefits [2,
3]. Recently, studies into ecosystem services have primarily focused on the development,
evaluation strategies [4], SWOT analysis [5], provision of requirements for selecting the
appropriate ecosystem services [6], analysis and assessment of ecosystems policy [7] towards the
achievement of an improved ecosystem health [8]. In the work done by [5], the authors discussed
four (4) key factors to improve ecosystems services as 1) increasing awareness of the extent to
which human societies interact with and are dependent upon the environment; 2) better integrating
the natural and social sciences and engaging and acknowledging stakeholder knowledge; 3) greater
understanding of the impacts of environmental change and environmental policy on human
wellbeing; and, 4) contributing towards achievement of sustainable relationships between human
society and ecosystems. In addition to the strategies designed to improve ecosystem services, there
are other integrated approaches that have been proposed for assessing ecosystem health. For
example, in [9], an integrated approach for assessing the urban ecosystem health of megacities in
China was discussed. In this work, they designed an assessment model to improve eco-environment
in 13 megalopolises and metropolises. Similarly, [10] provided an assessment model for the
Hangzhou Bay in China by integrating remote sensing and inventory data to assess ecosystem
health and [11] provide an assessment model (VORS model) which focused on vigor, organization,
resilience, and service for assessing the ecosystem health in the Liao River Basin upstream region.
Other ecosystem health assessments models were proposed in [12 -15]. Looking at the current
trend of global ecosystem change, there is the need to also delve attention into the interaction of
man with the ecosystems with the intention of enhancing the sense of responsibility towards
maintaining healthy ecosystems. The concept of stewardship has gained attention in recent years as
a tool to shift the paradigm into developing humans to be part of the ecosystem and that everyone
has a responsibility for its care [16, 17].
According to [18], stewardship is a framework that guides society to actively shape pathways of
ecological and social change to enhance both ecosystem resilience and long-term human
wellbeing. The use of Information Technology/Systems for environmental monitoring have been
well studied in recent years by researchers to build the knowledge base for environmental action
and sustainability [19, 20]. Technology provides different solutions to solve different problems in
the environment such as the use of sensors for water quality monitoring [21, 22], and animal
tracking [23]. Also, social media tools have been adopted to improve environmental awareness to
provide individuals with the necessary knowledge, and skills to prevent issues facing the
environment [24]. Despite these technological advancements, there still remain a gap for man to
use technology to match the current rate of global ecosystem change. Emerging from the
convergence of technology and stewardship is the conception of technology stewardship of the
ecosystem. This is explained as the use of technological tools to streamline ecological and social
changes to enhance the ecosystem structure and function. Technology stewarding, therefore,
constitutes the interaction among the functions performed by the Technology Steward,
Environmental Steward, and the Community Steward. The roles and functions provided by these
people are provided in Section 3
2.( Motivation(
These coastal ecosystems are at risk to succumbing to adverse effects of increasing demands of a
growing population. The area is undergoing rapid changes in land use and land cover with
commercial and residential developments replacing what were once forested areas and other natural
habitats. It has been reported in several media that people in the villages in the coastal area use the
beach as a place of convenience also, garbage, mostly plastic is piling up at the beach, some of it
disposed there and others washed up from the sea by the tide. Sea level rise, water pollution, and
habitat decline threaten the resources and attributes of the coast. Effective coastal zone
management requires an educated community with an understanding of the implication of their
actions. Effective education programs are critical to fostering action and change for improving
coastal management. A number of local government and non-government organizations have
developed coastal management education programs targeting a range of stakeholders within the
Ada coastal area. However, most of these programs do not have the requisite framework for
sustainability and lack the indigenous knowledge of the local environment. Whilst these programs
may be successful in reaching their target groups, the question is: how effective are these programs
in strengthening stewardship of community members towards improving coastal ecosystems health
and sustainable management of the coast? This research aims to address this question through a
situational analysis of coastal ecosystems and current coastal management education within the
Ada coastal area on the eastern coast of Ghana. It hopes to improve the effectiveness of coastal
management education by creating an educational curriculum with a focus on sustainability and
knowledge of the indigenous environment.
3.( Stewardship(and(Sustainability(
The ecosystem is defined as a dynamic unit composed of the biotic and abiotic factors interacting
together. In the era of sustainability which has been the focus of almost every sector of society in
the world, humans are seen to be part of the ecological unit. The influences of mankind and
interactions with other biotic and abiotic factors in a sustainable manner have been regarded as the
complex integrated network which makes the earth livable. In the recent years, perhaps in the
advent of the industrial age, the trend of mankind in the exploitation of natural resource has been
considered unprecedented leading to diverse forms of pollution which are trending to a world
regarded as unsustainable. In other words, if the current trend continues it has been predicted by
environmental models that the threshold in which biotic and abiotic systems work will break down
and the resilience of the earth could not be restored any longer. Technology has seen great
improvements over the years and has proven to be an effective tool in various sectors as far as
management is a concern. It is, therefore, imperative that we find ways to integrate the various
technologies which are evolving and updating to enhance societal stewardship. The rate at which
humans are exploiting the resources in ecosystems calls for a sense of responsibility on the part of
the individual. Current methods of regulations, policies, and laws aimed at resource management,
though play a vital role in governance, is gradually weakening. This is partly attributed to the rising
human race and the need to provide and meet everyone’s satisfaction. In this system of the
competitive environment, there has been the urgent need to raise the awareness of stewardship
which hopes to drive the individual’s intention to act in a positive manner towards the ecosystems.
As the governing structures continue to play their role, stewardship will set the bottom-up approach
to re-shape the attitude and actions of the individual to build healthy and resilient ecosystems for
mankind. The coastal zone in eastern Ghana is described as an economic, ecological and residential
area. The coastline provides a source of living to many people that are employed in fishing and fish
processing. The long sandy beaches fringed with coconut trees are one of the tourist attractions of
the coast. The Volta River and its estuary are found in the area. The islands in the river and in the
estuary, are homes to many wildlife including marine turtles, birds, crocodiles, and monkeys.
Mangrove vegetation is another attraction of the area with much ecological benefits. These
important natural features are however endangered by human activities.
Technology is advancing since the era of industrialization at a very rapid rate. This has come with
diverse frameworks and tools for solving different challenges at the click of a button. In the
concept to enhance the sense of responsibility of mankind towards the environment, technology
should also be designed to enhance stewardship, hence, the need for a technological steward.
Currently, there is a pool of different technological tools that seek to address environmental
challenges in a sectoral approach. In reality, these have proven to be very helpful in tackling a lot
of challenges within the domain of disaster monitoring and ecosystem protection. However, the
common integrated platform where different technological tools and frameworks are made to work
towards enhancing stewardship would be more effective. In the end, this creates a greater synergy
for ecosystem protection since the effect of technology the enhance the sense of responsibility of
humans are together serving as caretakers of the ecosystems. The platform will be kept abreast
through the update of finding ways the use new emerging technologies to remedy challenges we
have in the environment as well as enhancing the human to be more concern about keeping healthy
and resilient ecosystems. The interaction among the stewards are shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1 Interaction among ecosystem stewards
Environmentalists (i.e., the environmental stewards) seek to provide the needed knowledge and
actions to society in order to keep and maintain healthy ecosystems in the environment. Different
disciplines are working in an integrated approach with environmentalist with the aim of bringing
solutions to current challenges we face in current times or as projected. It is imperative that the
attention is drawn to stewardship where individuals are also empowered to know about the
functioning and structure of the ecosystems particularly those in their immediate environment or in
connection to their livelihoods. The stewardship concept also advocates to effectively empower
individuals to provide remedies to small challenges that could escalate into major threats in the
environments. Measures should not be put into place to curb humans from exploiting the ecosystem
however, the human attitude of greed to the ecosystem should be re-shaped in the idea of
sustainability. In this effect, man exploits the ecosystem in the sphere of his environmental
resilience, economic gains, and social integrity.
The term community stewardship for ecosystem sustainability has been coined to use stewardship
as a tool for making ecosystems more sustainable on the part of people in direct connection with
the ecosystem resources. Community stewardship serves to empower the humans who are in direct
contact with the ecosystems. This is usually through their livelihoods most especially. People in
such locus should be made aware of the structure and functioning of the ecosystems and also
empowered to become good stewards. Technology in this sense could be made to enhance the
Figure 2 provides the architecture of the ecosystem, taking into account the role of the three
stewards (technology, environment, and community) and their interaction with the activities within
the ecosystem. The three partnership groups work together to enhance information flow for
managing ecosystems (Figure 1). The Ecosysplatform integrates the internet, servers, mobile
devices, and software applications to create innovative methods and approaches in real-time for a
smarter management process. For example, the community steward may detect an indiscriminate
habitat destruction such as mangrove vegetation by community members or poaching of
endangered species like turtles in the ecosystem, could send an information to the platform where it
could be assessed by the all the partners for immediate action to be taken. The environmental
steward works in this platform to provide and recommend the appropriate strategy to deal with the
challenge in the ecosystem. Where possible, the environmental stewards on the platform discuss
the recommended strategies and decide on the best approach. The responsibility of the technology
steward is to check the available strategies as recommended by the environmental stewards and the
community stewards. Also, he combines current and innovative technological tools and methods to
foster the process of dealing with the challenge in the ecosystem. The goal for integrating
stewardship of the ecosystem with technology is to ensure effective and efficient monitoring of the
environment to sustain the various service derived from nature.
Figure 2 Ecosystem Stewardship
4( Conclusion(
The future direction of this concept is to establish coastal educational centers as part of integrated
coastal zone management strategies to enhance stewardship of community members and
stakeholders along every coast particularly in the developing countries. These canters will run at
the strategic level of governance where it becomes imperative for community members and
stakeholders to get involve in the process of helping to conserve the ecosystems. Awarding
incentives will play a vital role in recognizing this objective. It is, therefore, envisioned that some
form of benefits would be used with time which could be in the form of monetary gains, waivers,
certificate awards and recognition. For example, it could be made mandatory for all potential
politicians to have participated in such ecosystem stewardship programs before being offered
political appointments.
5( References((
[1] V. Daan, T. John, M. C. Antoine, S. Maxim, C. B. Gerard, L. A. Victor, H. H. Prins, The ecosystem
concept, 2003.
[2] World Institute “For Conservation And Environment. Ecosystems and human well-being: A framework
for assessment, 2005.
[3] V. R. Walter, A. M. Harold, A. Cropper, Ecosystems and human well- being: synthesis / millennium
ecosystem assessment”, Island Press, Washington, DC, A Report of the Millennium Ecosystem
Assessment, 2005.
[4] B. Danley, C. Widmark, Evaluating conceptual definitions of ecosystem services and their implications,
Ecological Economics, 2016.
[5] J. Bull, N. Jobstvogt, A. B ̈ohnke-Henrichs, A. Mascarenhas, N. Sitas, C. Baulcomb, C. Lambini, M.
Rawlins, H. Baral, J. Za ̈hringer, et al., Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats: A swot
analysis of the ecosystem services framework, Ecosystem Services, 2016.
[6] U. Heink, J. Hauck, K. Jax, U. Sukopp, Requirements for the selection of ecosystem service indicators
the case of maes indicators, Ecological Indicators, 2016.
[7] B. Reyers, R. Biggs, G. S. Cumming, T. Elmqvist, A. P. Hejnow- icz, S. Polasky, Getting the measure of
ecosystem services: a socialecological approach, Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 2013.
[8] A. O’Brien, K. Townsend, R. Hale, D. Sharley, V. Pettigrove, How is ecosystem health defined and
measured? a critical review of freshwater and estuarine studies, Ecological Indicators, 2016.
[9] C. Zeng, X. Deng, S. Xu, Y. Wang, J. Cui, An integrated approach for assessing the urban ecosystem
health of megacities in china”, Cities, 2016.
[10] T. Sun, W. Lin, G. Chen, P. Guo, Y. Zeng, Wetland ecosystem health assessment through integrating
remote sensing and inventory data with an assessment model for the hangzhou bay, china, Science of
The Total Environment, 2016.
[11] Y. Yan, C. Zhao, C. Wang, P. Shan, Y. Zhang, G. Wu, Ecosystem health assessment of the liao river
basin upstream region based on ecosystem services”, Acta Ecologica Sinica, 2016.
[12] I.Kabor ́e,O.Moog,M.Alp,W.Guenda,T.Koblinger,K.Mano, A. Ou ́eda, R. Ou ́edraogo, D. Trauner, A.
Melcher, “Using macroinvertebrates for ecosystem health assessment in semi-arid streams of burkina
faso”, Hydrobiologia, 2016.
[13] C. Piroddi, D. K. Moutopoulos, J. Gonzalvo, S. Libralato, Ecosystem health of a mediterranean semi-
enclosed embayment (amvrakikos gulf, greece): Assessing changes using a modeling approach”,
Continental Shelf Research, 2016.
[14] A. Borja, M. Elliott, J. H. Andersen, T. Berg, J. Carstensen, B. S. Halpern, A.-S. Heiskanen, S.
Korpinen, J. S. S. Lowndes, G. Martin, et al., Overview of integrative assessment of marine systems:
The ecosys- tem approach in practice”, Frontiers in Marine Science, 2016.
[15] H. O. Fock, G. Kraus, From metaphors to formalism: A heuristic approach to holistic assessments of
ecosystem health”, PloS one, 2016.
[16] H. McMillen, L. K. Campbell, E. S. Svendsen, R. Reynolds, “Recognizing stewardship practices as
indicators of social resilience: In living memorials and in a community garden”, Sustainability, 2016.
[17] F. S. Chapin III, S. Pickett, M. E. Power, S. L. Collins, J. S. Baron, D. W. Inouye, M. G. Turner, Earth
stewardship: an initiative by the eco- logical society of america to foster engagement to sustain planet
earth, in: Earth Stewardship, Springer, 2015.
[18] F. S. Chapin III, M. Sommerkorn, M. D. Robards, K. Hillmer-Pegram, Ecosystem stewardship: A
resilience framework for arctic conservation, Global Environmental Change, 2015.
[19] L. M. Hilty, P. Arnfalk, L. Erdmann, J. Goodman, M. Lehmann, P. A. Wa ̈ger, The relevance of
information and communication technologies for environmental sustainabilitya prospective simulation
study”, Environmental Modelling & Software, 2006.
[20] Y. Arushanyan, E. Ekener Petersen, A. Moberg, V. C. Coroama, A framework for sustainability
assessment of ICT futures scenarios and sustainability impacts of future ICT-societies, in: Joint
Conference on 29th International Conference on Informatics for Environmental Pro- tection/3rd
International Conference on ICT for Sustainability (Envi- roInfo and ICT4S), Univ Copenhagen,
Copenhagen, DENMARK, Atlantis Press, 2015.
[21] C. Bui, A. Rosbaugh, I. Gonzalez, J. Lu, C. Kuhns, J. Crandall, A. Faulk, M. Nguyen, A genetic
approach to designing a novel bio- logical sensor to monitor water contamination, 2016.
[22] B. Højris, S. C. B. Christensen, H.-J. Albrechtsen, C. Smith, M. Dahlqvist, A novel, optical, on-line
bacteria sensor for monitoring drinking water quality, Scientific reports, 2016.
[23] S. Viswanathan, D. Jayakumar, The role of wireless sensor network in tracking wild animals crossing
forest boundaries, Programmable Device Circuits and Systems, 2016.
[24] T. Tlebere, B. Scholtz, A. P. Calitz, Using social media to improve environmental awareness in higher
education institutions, in: Information Technology in Environmental Engineering, Springer”, 2016.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Full-text available
Environmental policies employ metaphoric objectives such as ecosystem health, resilience and sustainable provision of ecosystem services, which influence corresponding sustainability assessments by means of normative settings such as assumptions on system description, indicator selection, aggregation of information and target setting. A heuristic approach is developed for sustainability assessments to avoid ambiguity and applications to the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) and OSPAR assessments are presented. For MSFD, nineteen different assessment procedures have been proposed, but at present no agreed assessment procedure is available. The heuristic assessment framework is a functional-holistic approach comprising an ex-ante/ex-post assessment framework with specifically defined normative and systemic dimensions (EAEPNS). The outer normative dimension defines the ex-ante/ex-post framework, of which the latter branch delivers one measure of ecosystem health based on indicators and the former allows to account for the multi-dimensional nature of sustainability (social, economic, ecological) in terms of modeling approaches. For MSFD, the ex-ante/ex-post framework replaces the current distinction between assessments based on pressure and state descriptors. The ex-ante and the ex-post branch each comprise an inner normative and a systemic dimension. The inner normative dimension in the ex-post branch considers additive utility models and likelihood functions to standardize variables normalized with Bayesian modeling. Likelihood functions allow precautionary target setting. The ex-post systemic dimension considers a posteriori indicator selection by means of analysis of indicator space to avoid redundant indicator information as opposed to a priori indicator selection in deconstructive-structural approaches. Indicator information is expressed in terms of ecosystem variability by means of multivariate analysis procedures. The application to the OSPAR assessment for the southern North Sea showed, that with the selected 36 indicators 48% of ecosystem variability could be explained. Tools for the ex-ante branch are risk and ecosystem models with the capability to analyze trade-offs, generating model output for each of the pressure chains to allow for a phasing-out of human pressures. The Bayesian measure of ecosystem health is sensitive to trends in environmental features, but robust to ecosystem variability in line with state space models. The combination of the ex-ante and ex-post branch is essential to PLOS ONE |
Full-text available
Resilience theory has received increased attention from researchers across a range of disciplines who have developed frameworks and articulated categories of indicators; however, there has been less discussion of how to recognize, and therefore support, social resilience at the community level, especially in urban areas. The value of urban environmental stewardship for supporting social-ecological functioning and improving quality of life in cities has been documented, but recognizing it as a strategy for strengthening social resilience to respond to future disturbances has not been fully explored. Here we address the question: How can social resilience indicators be operationalized as stewardship practices in an urban context? Using a deductive coding approach drawing upon existing resilience frameworks we analyze qualitative data from community managed-open spaces in the New York City area that have responded to various chronic presses and acute disturbances including a hurricane and a terrorist attack. In each case we identify and characterize the type of grounded, empirically observable stewardship practices that demonstrate the following indicators of social resilience at the community level: place attachment, social cohesion, social networks, and knowledge exchange and diversification. The process of operationalizing abstract indicators of social resilience has important implications for managers to support social (and ecological) resilience in the specific areas where stewardship takes place, as well as potentially having greater effects that bridge beyond the spatial and temporal boundaries of the site. We conclude by suggesting how researchers and practitioners might learn from our examples so they can recognize resilience in other sites in order to both inform research frameworks and strengthen practice and programming, while keeping larger institutional structures and context in mind.
Full-text available
Due to rapid urbanization, industrialization and population growth, wetland area in China has shrunk rapidly and many wetland ecosystems have been reported to degrade during recent decades. Wetland health assessment could raise the public awareness of the wetland condition and guide policy makers to make reasonable and sustainable policies or strategies to protect and restore wetland ecosystems. This study assessed the health levels of wetland ecosystem at the Hangzhou Bay, China using the pressure-state-response (PSR) model through synthesizing remote sensing and statistical data. Ten ecological and social-economic indicators were selected to build the wetland health assessment system. Weights of these indicators and PSR model components as well as the normalized wetland health score were assigned and calculated based on the analytic hierarchy process (AHP) method. We analyzed the spatio-temporal changes in wetland ecosystem health status during the past 20 years (1990–2010) from the perspectives of ecosystem pressure, state and response. The results showed that the overall wetland health score was in a fair health level, but displayed large spatial variability in 2010. The wetland health score declined from good health level to fair health level from 1990 to 2000, then restored slightly from 2000 to 2010. Overall, wetland health levels showed a decline from 1990 to 2010 for most administrative units. The temporal change patterns in wetland ecosystem health varied significantly among administrative units. Our results could help to clarify the administrative responsibilities and obligations and provide scientific guides not only for wetland protection but also for restoration and city development planning at the Hangzhou Bay area.
Full-text available
Today, microbial drinking water quality is monitored through either time-consuming laboratory methods or indirect on-line measurements. Results are thus either delayed or insufficient to support proactive action. A novel, optical, on-line bacteria sensor with a 10-minute time resolution has been developed. The sensor is based on 3D image recognition, and the obtained pictures are analyzed with algorithms considering 59 quantified image parameters. The sensor counts individual suspended particles and classifies them as either bacteria or abiotic particles. The technology is capable of distinguishing and quantifying bacteria and particles in pure and mixed suspensions, and the quantification correlates with total bacterial counts. Several field applications have demonstrated that the technology can monitor changes in the concentration of bacteria, and is thus well suited for rapid detection of critical conditions such as pollution events in drinking water.
Full-text available
The ecosystem services concept (ES) is becoming a cornerstone of contemporary sustainability thought. Challenges with this concept and its applications are well documented, but have not yet been systematically assessed alongside strengths and external factors that influence uptake. Such an assessment could form the basis for improving ES thinking, further embedding it into environmental decisions and management. The Young Ecosystem Services Specialists (YESS) completed a Strengths–Weaknesses–Opportunities–Threats (SWOT) analysis of ES through YESS member surveys. Strengths include the approach being interdisciplinary, and a useful communication tool. Weaknesses include an incomplete scientific basis, frameworks being inconsistently applied, and accounting for nature's intrinsic value. Opportunities include alignment with existing policies and established methodologies, and increasing environmental awareness. Threats include resistance to change, and difficulty with interdisciplinary collaboration. Consideration of SWOT themes suggested five strategic areas for developing and implementing ES. The ES concept could improve decision-making related to natural resource use, and interpretation of the complexities of human-nature interactions. It is contradictory – valued as a simple means of communicating the importance of conservation, whilst also considered an oversimplification characterised by ambiguous language. Nonetheless, given sufficient funding and political will, the ES framework could facilitate interdisciplinary research, ensuring decision-making that supports sustainable development.
The upstream region of the Liao River Basin is the ecotone of agriculture–animal husbandry in northern China, whose ecosystem is relatively fragile. In recent years, the ecosystem structure, quality, and function in this region has been affected by anthropogenic and natural disturbances, including ecological protection, conservation measures and regional climate change. The ecological functions of the upstream region and western headwaters of the river are vital for sustaining a healthy ecosystem of the whole basin. Previous assessments of the ecosystem health focused on the inner construction and integrity, and less on the ecosystem processes and function. However, we consider that a healthy and balanced ecosystem needs inner integrity and stabilization in process and construction, and the capacity to perform essential ecosystem functions in a larger spatiotemporal scale. In this study, we developed the VOR model to the VORS model via the introduction of ecosystem services, established the assessment framework containing V (Vigor: net primary production [NPP]), O (Organization: area proportion of nature ecosystem, Shannon Diversity Index [SHDI], Contagion Index [CONTAG]), R (Resilience: ecology elasticity), and S (Service: water conservation, soil conservation). These seven indices formed four criterion layers. The upstream region was divided into four subregions according to sub-basins extracted by a digital elevation model. Finally, we conducted a comprehensive assessment of ecosystem health and variations for this region, based on the results of the “Ecosystem Survey and Assessment of Liao River Basin (2000–2010)”. We made three major conclusions. First, the VORS model could significantly improve the recognition of ecosystem health assessments by also evaluating ecosystem services. The new assessment model used ecosystem states and process connotations to comprehensively assess ecosystem health. Second, from 2000 to 2010, ecosystem health in the upstream region improved as a whole, mainly due to improvements in ecosystem vigor driven mainly by local climate change. The O and R indices were relatively stable. The ecosystem service indices showed strong spatial heterogeneity in the region, and changed little in this period. Finally, there were significant spatial differences in ecosystem health in this region. In general, the west regions were better than the east, ecosystem health of regions in descending order is as follows: Laoha River sub-basin > Xiliao River sub-basin, and Xila Mulun River sub-basin > Xinkai River sub-basin. Moreover, improvements in ecosystem health were greater in the mainstream sub-basins than in the branch sub-basins. Thus, the eastern regions are key areas for ecosystem health conservation, and ecosystem service is the principal constraint for local ecosystem health. Therefore, conservation of main ecosystem service capacity can drive improvements to ecosystem health.
In 2014, China adjusted its “city categorization standard.” The newly defined megalopolises and metropolises are under unprecedented pressure from various eco-environmental problems, making them suitable representatives for exploring the state of urban ecosystem health. In this study, we establish a two-layer indicator system to assess the urban ecosystem health and choose 33 indicators grouped into social, economic, transportation, facility, land, and management subsystems, with the aim of correlating human activities with the structure, vigor, resilience, and health of the urban ecosystem. We integrate subjective and objective methods to determine weights at different levels through the Technique for Order Preference by Similarity to Ideal Solution (TOPSIS), the analytic hierarchy process, and information entropy. In particular, we develop a spatial TOPSIS technique by introducing a Euclidean-distance-based weight to rank the health of the cities' ecosystem in terms of the spatial effects among these cities. The results reveal that megalopolises such as Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou have superior social and economic subsystems, whereas other megacities have advantages in transportation, facility, land, and management subsystems. From 2005 to 2010, the gaps among these cities in terms of urban ecosystem health significantly reduced regardless of the weight determination method. Not all indicators involved can help realize a better urban ecosystem. Nevertheless, they provide a reference point for making specific regulations to control human activity and improve eco-environmental management.