Edited by experts at the leading edge of the development of causal assessment methods for more than two decades, Ecological Causal Assessment gives insight and expert guidance on how to identify cause-effect relationships in environmental systems. The book discusses the importance of asking the fundamental question "Why did this effect happen?" before moving on to "How can we fix it?"
The book provides a deeper understanding of different philosophical and analytical approaches, and of cognitive tendencies that can lead to errors. It describes formal processes for causal assessment that are particularly helpful when the situation is complex or contentious. It also describes how to approach the analysis of available data and to optimize collection efforts. The text then details a transparent process that helps others replicate results and can be used to convince skeptics that the true cause has been identified. Several detailed case studies show how to apply the process to streams, watersheds, and a terrestrial wildlife population.
Causal assessment is a challenging, but endlessly fascinating endeavor. Success requires the persistence to figure things out and solid strategies for using the information that you have and getting more of the right kind of information that you need. This book gives you just that: the skills, knowledge, and confidence needed to successfully unravel tough environmental problems and build the knowledge base for effective management solutions.
Read interview about this book with author Sue Norton here:
Table of Contents
Introduction and Philosophical Foundation
Introduction, Susan B. Norton, Susan M. Cormier, and Glenn W. Suter II
What is a Cause? Glenn W. Suter II
How Have Causes Been Identified? Glenn W. Suter II and Susan M. Cormier
Characteristics and Evidence of Causation, Susan M. Cormier, Glenn W. Suter II, and Susan B. Norton
Human Cognition and Causal Assessment, Susan B. Norton and Leela Rao
Conducting Causal Assessments
Our Approach for Identifying Causes, Susan M. Cormier, Susan B. Norton, and Glenn W. Suter II
Part 2A Formulating the Problem
Defining the Case, Susan B. Norton and Glenn W. Suter II
Listing Candidate Causes, Susan B. Norton, Kate Schofield, Glenn W. Suter II, and Susan M. Cormier
Part 2B Deriving Evidence
Case-Specific Observations: Assembling and Exploring Data, Susan B. Norton and Michael G. McManus
Case-Specific Observations: Deriving Evidence, Susan B. Norton, David Farrar, and Michael Griffith
Regional Observational Studies: Assembling and Exploring Data, Jeroen Gerritsen, Lester L. Yuan, Patricia Shaw-Allen,
and David Farrar
Regional Observational Studies: Deriving Evidence, Jeroen Gerritsen, Lester L. Yuan, Patricia Shaw-Allen, and Susan M. Cormier
Regional Observational Studies: Addressing Confounding, David Farrar, Laurie C. Alexander, Lester L. Yuan, and Jeroen Gerritsen
Assessment-Specific Field Study Designs and Methods, Robert B. Brua, Joseph M. Culp, and Alexa C. Alexander
Laboratory Experiments and Microcosms, Alexa C. Alexander, Joseph M. Culp, and Robert B. Brua
Mesocosm Studies, Joseph M. Culp, Alexa C. Alexander, and Robert B. Brua
Symptoms, Body Burdens, and Biomarkers, Glenn W. Suter II
Simulation Models, Glenn W. Suter II
Part 2C Forming Conclusions and Using the Findings
Forming Causal Conclusions, Glenn W. Suter II, Susan M. Cormier, and Susan B. Norton
Communicating the Findings, Susan M. Cormier
After the Causal Assessment: Using the Findings, Susan B. Norton, Scot E. Hagerthey, and Glenn W. Suter II
Causal Assessment in a Complex Urban Watershed—The Long Creek Case Studyn C. Richard Ziegler and Susan B. Norton
The Clear Fork Watershed Case Study: The Value of State Monitoring Programs, Lei Zheng, Jeroen Gerritsen, and Susan M. Cormier
The Northern River Basins Study and the Athabasca River: The Value of Experimental Approaches in a Weight-of-Evidence Assessment, Alexa C. Alexander, Patricia A. Chambers, Robert B. Brua, and Joseph M. Culp
Applying CADDIS to a Terrestrial Case: San Joaquin Kit Foxes on an Oil Field, Glenn W. Suter II and Thomas P. O’Farrell
List of Abbreviations and Acronyms
"… it is more than a reference book, it is also a handbook of how to establish causality. The range and depth of topics covered is astonishing and indicates that the authors have probably spent their careers putting this topic together. This book is now the bible for establishing causality."
—Science of the Total Environment, 2015
"Although originally developed primarily to support agencies charged with implementing the Clean Water Act’s mandate to identify and restore aquatic ecosystems impaired by pollutant discharges, the concepts and methods described in this book have much wider applicability. As evidenced by the kit fox case study, they are applicable to terrestrial as well as aquatic systems, and to impaired or threatened populations as well as to communities and ecosystems. This is an important book and I recommend it to anyone interested in the problem of diagnosing causes of ecological impairment."
—Larry Barnthouse, LWB Environmental Sciences, in Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management
"As a well-seasoned ecological risk assessor and ecotoxicologist concerned with ecosystem diagnosis and eco-epidemiology, it is my experience that it is generally not easy and straight forward to firstly detect and describe the exact ecological impact at a particular location, and secondly to attribute this impact to the underlying causation. This is mainly due to natural variability and the enormous diversity in potential stress factors that may all act in concert. In this respect, ecological causal assessment clearly resembles forensic science. This book, compiled and edited by my valued US EPA friends, covers both theory and practical application of causal assessment in cases of observed ecosystem deterioration or alteration. Although it is virtually impossible to compile universally applicable cookbook-style recipes, the multiple lines of thought and evidence that have to be followed are clearly sketched. The book is concisely written and provides the reader with lots of illustrative examples and real-life case study descriptions."
—Dr. Dick de Zwart, National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), Bilthoven, The Netherlands
"The Editors have drawn together colleagues from the U.S. and Canada to collaborate on a seminal work that provides guidance on causal assessment using available information from chemical, physical, and biological traits and indicators. No other book has reached to this level of using ecological evidence in a systematic process to sort out environmental problems. … a thorough treatise on causal assessment and should be a resource for higher academic studies in this subject matter."
—Michael T. Barbour, Adjunct Scientist, Mote Marine Laboratory, Retired Director, Center for Ecological Sciences, Tetra Tech
"This well-written and well-organized book will allow the next generation of water stewards to identify the causes of water quality degradation and lead to necessary action to restore rivers to a healthy state. … will train the next generation of water stewards to identify the causes of water quality degradation and what actions are needed to restore rivers to a healthy state. Although framed around fresh waters, Ecological Causal Assessment has lessons that apply to any ecosystem."
—David Allan, University of Michigan, co-author of "Stream Ecology, Structure and Function of Running waters"
"… will be useful for students looking to enter this important field as well as to seasoned practitioners. I view this book as setting a foundation upon which the field can continue to develop and highly recommend cover to cover reading to any individual who aspires to be a causal analyst of environmental impairments and possible future outcomes."
—Charlie Menzie, Exponent
"At last! Norton, Cormier, and Suter provide a clear, sensible and comprehensive description of causal assessment, replete with real-world examples and a strong suite of authentic supporting case studies by highly qualified investigators. Well-organized and easy to read, this is an important how-to book in the area of environmental management. … It should be required reading by every corporate, municipal, state or federal employee who has any environmental management responsibilities."
—Arthur J. Stewart, Ph.D., Oak Ridge Associated Universities, Oak Ridge, Tennessee
"From the first sentence, ‘It was a mystery’, this book provides an engaging but thorough treatment of the otherwise dry discipline of ecological causal assessment. Drs. Norton, Cormier and Suter have been at the leading edge of the development and application of ecological causal assessment methods for almost two decades, and their experience, learnings, and solutions are neatly presented in this book. The clear writing, use of defined terms, well-structured chapters, and pertinent illustrative case studies all serve to greatly simplify explanation and understanding of the field for both new and experienced users. This book will become required reading for anybody attempting to identify cause-effect relationships in environmental systems, and beyond to any system where we cannot perform neat experiments, but still need to ask the fundamental question: Why did this happen?"
—Angus Webb, The University of Melbourne