Indicators | Importance Go Back

"An indicator is a symbol or a sign that translates a complex message in a simplified, useful way,
providing information as to a tendency or event that cannot be directly observed.
The indicators are essential instruments to monitor the state of the coastal environment." [1]

Why are indicators so important?

Several countries in the worldA keep systems of Sustainable Development (SD) indicators, facing the growing demands of the environmental management which gives priority to preventing and minimizing the environmental impacts and provides safety to the populations living on the coast or far from it.

Since the beginning of the occupation of the coastal zone, the populations have interacted with the coastal ecological system and interfered in many of the relations between its compartments. Adaptive capacities have been presented by several organisms in the face of environmental alterations, but there is a limit that depends on the standing capacity of the environment and beyond which loss of life cannot be avoided.

Anthropic activities must be then object of intense and permanent attention, in order not to trespass the sustainability limit of the environment. In this ambit, the proposition, the raising and the analysis of indicators are important as a diagnostic tool of the environmental state and of inference of the scene evolution.

The analysis of sustainability indicators, however, must be based on known historical aspects, besides involving the biggest possible number of relations among indexes. Only that way will the scene indicated after the analysis of the indexes be more faithful to the real world.

In 2005, in the intent of favoring the effectiveness of the application of indicators, Marzall and Almeida [2] synthesized some of the desirable characteristics at the moment of their choices:

  1. It must provide an immediate reply to both performed and occurred changes in a given system;
  2. It must be of easy application, that is, the cost and time spent must be adequate and measuring must be viable;
  3. It must allow an integrated approach, relating with other indicators and allowing these relations to be analyzed and
  4. It must be directed to the user, be useful and significant to his/her purposes, besides being comprehensible.

Thus, the application of sustainability indicators provides the understanding of complex realities, as the ones found in coastal zones, once it translates aspects that used to be analyzed with more difficulty to a simple language.

Finally, the adoption of free systems and programs in the development of the researches by public and private institutions is stimulated, having in view the economy, independence, security, stability and robustness of all its set. Powerful languages such as PHP (PHP Hypertext Preprocessor), allied to the management of databases, supported in free ambient (BSD, Linux, Apache2,…), constitute a useful tool in the processing of the raised data and calculation of the indexes.

A Some of the countries that keep systems of SD indicators:


[1] LINTON, D.M. e WARNER, G.F. 2003. Biological Indicators in the Caribbean Coastal Zone and their Role in Integrated Coastal Management. Ocean & Coastal Management, 46: 261-76.

[2] MARZALL, K. e ALMEIDA, J. O Estado da Arte sobre Indicadores de Sustentabilidade para Agroecossistemas. [online] ( click here to read the text).

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