SummaryThe Ecological Footprint (EF) is a measure of the amount of biological productive land and sea area are required to meet the consumption and waste production patterns of a population or human process. General Information about this IndicatorWhat is it?: The Ecological Footprint (EF) is a measure of the amount of biological productive land and sea area are required to meet the consumption and waste production patterns of a population or human process. The EF is often compared to the available Biocapacity (BC) for the area of interest, which is a measure of the capacity of a region to product the goods and services consumed by a population or process. In 2013, the Global Footprint Network produced an EF and BC analysis for California, using 2008 data. Why is it important?: All economies are based eventually on the use of natural systems as a source of raw material, energy concentration, and productive processes (e.g., photosynthesis). As economies have expanded, many ecosystems and processes within these systems have been over-used, which both jeopardizes the ecosystems and the people & societies using them. Understanding the basic relationship between our consumption and waste-production streams and the natural systems upon which they depend allow us to make informed decisions about maintaining societal and ecological well-being, the cornerstone of sustainability. Many countries, states, and processes have entered what is commonly called “ecological overshoot”, which is where the ecological footprint (EF) is larger than the biocapacity (BC) to support it, across some meaningful spatial and timeframe of analysis. This can easily happen in industrialized regions where the EF is much larger than the regionally-available BC. Despite the existence of trade pathways, this is significant because it exposes each overshoot region to vulnerabilities associated with many and complex supply chains to meet societal needs and desires. This is similar to the case with the water footprint, where areas that import water-intensive goods are vulnerable to vagaries in these supply chains. What can Influence or Stress Condition?: Ecological footprint (EF) per capita depends on individuals’ consumption and waste-production rates, which are in turn related to country of origin and income. EF for a region depends on the per capita rate and the size of the population. In the US, per capita EF has been increasing steadily over the last 48 years, but the large increase in total EF for the US is mostly driven by population growth. The ratio of EF to biocapacity (BC) is a critical component of using EF to measure sustaianbility and there are many influences on BC. As natural systems have become stressed from use, their capacity to produce benefits to people has declined (e.g., global fisheries). Over-cutting of forests, over-use and erosion of croplands, over-fishing, and pollution of land and water have all contributed to stress on local, regional, and global BC. Climate change is likely to have mixed effects on natural systems, but for most systems where projections have been carried out, it likely to reduce BC. This will change the ratio of EF to BC, regardless of the size of EF. Indicator Preparation InformationData Sources: The information in this indicator report is drawn from the report from the Global Footprint Network on California’s Ecological Footprint and Biocapacity.