There are several indicators of the health of an ecosystem. One way is based on what an ecosystem is supposed to be. If it is a protected forest that has always been pristine and has now fallen below its intended goal, it is unhealthy. Often times this is determined by policy and organizational goals.
Other signs of ecosystem health might be species diversity, connectivity between organisms and environment, and habitat diversity. If an area lacks species diversity that once had that diversity the ecosystem will start to reflect that since every part of an ecosystem is important to the other parts.
Biodiversity is typically a good indicator of ecosystem health. Population stability is another good indicator. The presence of absence of specific species can be an indicator of ecosystem health. In freshwater systems, invertebrates can be used to indicate ecosystem health. If species such as stoneflies or mayflies (their immature states are aquatic and known as nymphs) are found, a system is healthy because these species are the most sensitive to pollution. If these nymphs are absent but many worm species are collected, it is a good indicator that the system is polluted (worms have much higher tolerance for polluted systems and oxygen-poor systems). Different ecosystems have different indicators.
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