The Problem of Environmental Monitoring

79 Pages Posted: 20 Sep 2010 Last revised: 10 Apr 2011

See all articles by Eric Biber

Eric Biber

University of California, Berkeley - School of Law


Environmental law depends on the regular collection of accurate information about the state of the natural environment (“ambient monitoring”) in order to assess the effectiveness of current regulatory and management policies and to develop new reforms. But despite the central role that ambient monitoring plays in environmental law and policy, the scholarly literature has almost ignored the question of whether and how effective ambient monitoring will take place – even though there is ample evidence that our current ambient monitoring data has extensive gaps and significant flaws. Moreover, the importance of ambient monitoring will only increase in the future with the shift to the new paradigm of adaptive management, in which, management and regulatory decisionmaking is kept purposefully flexible in order to allow for future adjustment based on monitoring. This Article develops the hitherto ignored concept of ambient monitoring, explains why it will predominantly be a task for public agencies, and explores the fundamental characteristics of effective monitoring that make it so challenging to perform. The Article then connects the scientific challenges of effective monitoring to the dynamics of public agencies to establish why those agencies might fail to conduct effective monitoring. Finally, it proposes possible solutions, with a focus on developing separate monitoring agencies.

Keywords: Environmental Law, Natural Resources Law, Monitoring, Adaptive Management, Ecosystem Management

Suggested Citation

Biber, Eric, The Problem of Environmental Monitoring. University of Colorado Law Review, Forthcoming, UC Berkeley Public Law Research Paper No. 1680000, Available at SSRN:

Eric Biber (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley - School of Law ( email )

215 Law Building
Berkeley, CA 94720-7200
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics