Meaningful and Meaningless Statements in Landscape Ecology and Environmental Sustainability

  • Fred S. RobertsEmail author
Part of the Springer Optimization and Its Applications book series (SOIA, volume 92)


The growing population and increasing pressures for development lead to challenges to life on our planet. Increasingly, we are seeing how human activities affect the natural environment, including systems that sustain life: climate, healthy air and water, arable land to grow food, etc. There is growing interest (and urgency) in understanding how changes in human activities might lead to long-term sustainability of critical environmental systems. Of particular interest are large ecological systems that affect climate, air and water, etc. Landscape Ecology is concerned with such systems. Understanding the challenges facing our planet requires us to summarize data, understand claims, and investigate hypotheses. To be useful, these summaries, claims, and hypotheses are often stated using metrics of various kinds, using a variety of scales of measurement. The modern theory of measurement shows us that we have to be careful using scales of measurement and that sometimes statements using such scales can be meaningless—in a very precise sense. This paper summarizes the theory of meaningful and meaningless statements in measurement and applies it to statements in landscape ecology and environmental sustainability.


Measurement Meaningfulness Landscape ecology Environmental sustainability Biodiversity Indices 



The author gratefully acknowledges the support of the National Science Foundation under grant number DMS-0829652 to Rutgers University. A number of ideas and some of the examples and language in this paper are borrowed from my papers Roberts [21, 23], which explore meaningful and meaningless statements in operations research and in epidemiology and public health, respectively. The author gratefully and thankfully acknowledges the many stimulating and fruitful scientific interchanges with Boris Mirkin over a period of many years, and wishes him many years of continued good health and success.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.DIMACS CenterRutgers UniversityPiscatawayUSA

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