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Environ Manage. 1997 May;21(3):457-75.

ENVIRONMENTAL AUDITING: A Synoptic Approach for Assessing CumulativeImpacts to Wetlands

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Dynamac Corporation Environmental Services US EPA National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory 200 S.W. 35th Street Corvallis, Oregon 97333, USA


/ The US Environmental Protection Agency's Wetlands ResearchProgram has developed the synoptic approach as a proposed method forassessing cumulative impacts to wetlands by providing both a general and acomprehensive view of the environment. It can also be applied more broadly toregional prioritization of environmental issues. The synoptic approach is aframework for making comparisons between landscape subunits, such aswatersheds, ecoregions, or counties, thereby allowing cumulative impacts tobe considered in management decisions. Because there is a lack of tools thatcan be used to address cumulative impacts within regulatory constraints, thesynoptic approach was designed as a method that could make use of availableinformation and best professional judgement. Thus, the approach is acompromise between the need for rigorous results and the need for timelyinformation. It is appropriate for decision making when quantitative,accurate information is not available; the cost of improving existinginformation or obtaining better information is high; the cost of a wronganswer is low; there is a high demand for the information; and the situationcalls for setting priorities between multiple decisions versus optimizing fora single decision. The synoptic approach should be useful for resourcemanagers because an assessment is timely; it can be completed within one totwo years at relatively low cost, tested, and improved over time. Anassessment can also be customized to specific needs, and the results arepresented in mapped format. However, the utility of a synoptic assessmentdepends on how well knowledge of the environment is incorporated into theassessment, relevant to particular management questions.


Cumulative impact assessment; Landscape ecology; Regionalprioritization.

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