In the search for the best ecological and economic indicators of ecosystem change, a unifying solution for joining data from disparate fields appears as a general rule: Organize data into space/time/topic hierarchies that permit convergence of data resulting from shared and appropriate scaling. The scale of the data selects for compatible methodologies, leading to data integration and the discovery of new relationships. Information technology approaches include bibliographic keyword searches, data-mining, data-modeling and geographic information system design. The approach was used within the "HEED" (Health Ecological and Economic Dimensions) study, which reconstructed historic marine disturbance events within the Northwestern Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea. The object of the study was to retrospectively derive co-occurring Multiple Marine Ecological Disturbances (MMEDs). Disturbances include indices of morbidity, mortality and disease events affecting humans, marine invertebrates, flora, and wildlife populations. Correlations between space/time occurrence, event coincidence, climate and oceanographic forcing are used to better define multiple marine ecological disturbance types. Systematic derivation of these types is part of diagnostic approach that can assist or guide marine ecological risk assessment.
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