Ecosystem Health > About Ecosystem Health

Ecosystem health is often defined by the ability of a biological community to handle threats to its resources.

Ecosystem health refers to the capacity of biological communities to respond to disturbance by resource threats and the ability to function without undue resource loss. The key to a healthy ecosystem is identification of these resource threats and minimizing their damage to ecosystem components and functions.

Threats to biological communities come in many forms. Insects and disease can stress plants and animals and predispose them to further damage or even death by other agents. Oak wilt disease can eliminate the majority of oaks from a landscape. Increasing encroachment by cedar (juniper), mesquite, prickly pear, and any other herbaceous or woody species that forms invasive thickets across the land affects species diversity. The number of plant and animal species decreases as brush species move in. Water production and seasonal availability may also be decreased. Invasive, non-native plants, insects, and diseases have increasingly become established in Central Texas. Giant reed, saltcedar, chinaberry, Chinese tallow, and others exist already in significant numbers. Soapberry borers, Rasberry crazy ants, and Dutch elm disease are present in the state and increasing their range.  Additionally, new invaders lie just outside Texas' border and threaten to become established in the state in the near future. Animal pests such as feral hogs and coyotes threaten plants, wildlife, and livestock. All of these threats are real and may be cumulative on the land. They affect the presence and function of the plants and animals that are favored by landowners.

Land management involves choices of manipulative techniques to counter these resource threats and accomplish the owner's objectives. Objectives may be grazing systems for livestock production, agricultural production, raising exotic animals for brood stock, deer and exotic species hunting, native grass restoration, proper tree species replanting, pond/ tank establishment, creek/ spring rejuvenation, creek bank protection, etc. Identification of these objectives along with the management practices chosen to accomplish them help to define the health of the land and its sustainability.