Examining inequality in aquatic ecosystem services: Evidence from large-scale monitoring programs

Katya E. Kovalenko, Sergey Ilyushkin, Holly A. Wellard Kelly, Justine A. Neville, Glenn R. Guntenspergen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We hypothesize that aquatic ecosystem services are likely to be inequitably accessible and addressing this hypothesis requires systematic assessment at regional and national scales. We used existing data from large-scale aquatic monitoring programs (National Coastal Condition Assessment, National Lakes Assessment) to examine relationships between ecosystem condition, approximating a subset of cultural and provisioning services, and inequality (population below poverty level, minority population). We also assessed whether monitoring sites equitably represented the gradient of socioeconomic backgrounds. Several water quality indicators were associated with significantly different minority and low-income percentages; however, the effect size was generally small, with the exception of nitrogen condition status. Minority communities were somewhat under-represented when comparing the distribution of all census blocks to those in proximity to monitoring sites. Analyses were sensitive to the skewed distribution of monitoring sites with a low frequency of observations at the more socially vulnerable part of the gradient. We discuss implications of these findings for improving the representation of vulnerable communities in large-scale monitoring programs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number173365
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Jul 20 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 Elsevier B.V.


  • Aquatic ecosystem services
  • Environmental justice
  • Nutrient pollution
  • Representation in monitoring

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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