Framing environmental indicators: moving from causal chains to causal networks

D. Niemeijer, R.S. de Groot

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

147 Citations (Scopus)


In recent years, there has been a boom in environmental assessment reports utilizing environmental indicators. Most of these publications are based on the casual chain frameworks (e.g., Pressure¿State¿Response (PSR), Driving force¿State¿Response (DSR), and Driving force¿Pressure¿State¿Impact¿Response (DPSIR)). These frameworks have made an important contribution by emphasising the importance of causality. However, the reliance on simple uni-directional chains is at the same time not very conducive to a good understanding of the complexity of the processes behind environmental indicators. This limits the usefulness of these frameworks for environmental (impact) assessments. In this paper we propose an enhanced DPSIR (eDPSIR) framework for environmental indicators that takes inter-relations of indicators into account by relying on the use of causal networks rather than causal chains. It will be shown how the concept of causal networks can increase insight into the inter-relation of environmental issues and associated indicators, can facilitate the identification of key indicators for particular kinds of questions, and can provide a useful first step to the establishment of dose¿response functions. Working with causal networks can contribute to more appropriate environmental policies and better management decisions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-106
JournalEnvironment, Development and Sustainability
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2008

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