Jump to main content.


Abbruzzese, Brooke and Scott G. Leibowitz1997. A synoptic approach for assessing cumulative impacts to wetlands. Environmental Management 21(3): 457-475.

Abstract - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Wetlands Research Program has developed the synoptic approach as a proposed method for assessing cumulative impacts to wetlands by providing both a general and a comprehensive view of the environment. It can also be applied more broadly to regional prioritization of environmental issues. The synoptic approach is a framework for making comparisons between landscape subunits, such as watersheds, ecoregions, or counties, thereby allowing cumulative impacts to be considered in management decisions. Because there is a lack of tools that can be used to address cumulative impacts within regulatory constraints, the synoptic approach was designed as a method that could make use of available information and best professional judgement. Thus, the approach is a compromise between the need for rigorous results and the need for timely information. It is appropriate for decision-making when quantitative, accurate information is not available; the cost of improving existing information or obtaining better information is high; the cost of a wrong answer is low; there is a high demand for the information; and the situation calls for setting priorities between multiple decisions versus optimizing for a single decision. The synoptic approach should be useful for resource managers because an assessment is timely; it can be completed within one to two years at relatively low cost, tested, and improved over time. An assessment can also be customized to specific needs, and the results are presented in mapped format. However, the utility of a synoptic assessment depends on how well knowledge of the environment is incorporated into the assessment, relevant to particular management questions.

ORD Home | NHEERL Home


Local Navigation


Jump to main content.