Open Access

The impact of impact studies

  • J. W. Hedgpeth1
Helgoländer wissenschaftliche Meeresuntersuchungen24:BF01609532


1. On January 1, 1970 the National Environmental Protection Act became law in the United States, and has been further strengthened by judicial interpretations. This act requires, among other things, a presentation of information to justify the effect of projects on the environment of both public and private works controlled by the permit process of the federal government, and to suggest alternatives. One of the events which influenced passage of this legislation was the Santa Barbara oil spill of January 1969.

2. Insofar as the marine environment is concerned, the most significant activity related to the requirement for impact statements is the study of coastal situations where waste outfalls, atomic power plants or desalination plants may be located. Although many of the studies sponsored by industry have been cursory, the need for critical application of ecological techniques known since the classical studies ofLorenz (1863) and touched upon in brief notes byHerdman (1920) andElmhirst (1932) has become obvious through the public hearing process.

3. The impact of impact studies may not only be to raise the standards of environmental studies in the sea, but also to clarify the present somewhat incoherent application by pragmatic ecologists of such debatable theoretical concepts as diversity and community stability.